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Baker University Food Pantry Tuesday, September 4, 2018.

Basic Needs Initiative expands aid to students in need

Ohio University is working on multiple initiatives to improve food and financial security on campus. 

The university launched the Basic Needs Initiative last fall to assist students experiencing food, shelter or financial insecurity. Since then, efforts have included the introduction of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at Jefferson Market and the establishment of the Baker Center Food Pantry.

“The Basic Needs Initiative is really looking at students who can’t afford basic food, shelter (and) their education at the university,” Senior Vice Provost for Student Success Elizabeth Sayrs said at the Board of Trustees meeting in August.

The Basic Needs OHIO Coalition — which includes Sayrs, Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina and faculty and staff members — is launching emergency micro-grants and a meal swipe donation program for students this semester. 

Kathy Fahl, who began her position as OU’s assistant dean of students in August, has been working with the coalition to develop emergency micro-grants.

The coalition is outlining eligibility, application and a review process for the emergency micro-grant program, Fahl said in an email. The grants will be available for students experiencing unexpected emergency expenses, such as car repairs, loss from fire or housing displacement.

“[Fahl is] helping us structure how we can raise money for, but also give micro-grants to students, a non-tuition award for textbook affordability, as well as their ability to get to campus, ranging from gas in a tank to flat tires, or things that cost money that students may not have at the moment that may stop them from going to class,” Pina said at the August Board of Trustees meeting. 

The Basic Needs Initiative is also addressing student food insecurity in a variety of ways, including through the introduction of a pilot program that allows meal swipes to be donated.

"Culinary Services is developing a meal donation program to be piloted during Fall Semester,” Associate Vice President for Auxiliaries Gwyn Scott said in an email. “We plan to share the program details in mid-September." 

The coalition is also working to streamline the process of getting food to students in need through the Baker Center Food Pantry. 

“We are establishing a food pipeline with campus and community partners to ensure constancy of food donations,” Fahl said in an email. “We continue to see a high volume of food passing through the pantry, which illustrates the ongoing need experienced by our students.”

Since the beginning of Fall Semester, the university has distributed about 300 pounds of food through the Baker Food Pantry. 

“Both (the micro-grants and the food pantry) have a strong commitment from university leadership,” Fahl said in an email. “We hope to expand the opportunity to support these important efforts through alumni, university donors, parents, students, and faculty.”


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