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Baier, a senior in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Purdue University, wanted to make an impact on campus. And he's not talking about handing out hot drinks to passing students, like his fraternity, Sigma Pi, had done for years.
"I want to do something big," he remembers telling Melissa Gruver, assistant dean of students for civic engagement and leadership development. "She said, 'Lets start a food pantry.' And, at first, I was like, 'OK, we'll see about that.'"
But after a crazy year of planning, he did it. ACE Campus Food Pantry, with guidance from Gruver and Food Finders Food Bank, is a resource available weekly to low-income students, staff and faculty who lack regular access to healthy foods. It's the first of its kind at Purdue, now located in the basement of the Baptist Student Foundation as of August.
Last year, Sigma Pi's mobile food pantry served 10,000 pounds of food in one day. Now with a brick-and-mortar location, the group estimates the pantry can serve at least 200 people a month.
The journey wasn't an easy one; obstacles included writing a grant for $3,150 in funding from Purdue's Center for Global Food Security and addressing all paperwork needed to become a nonprofit organization.
"There's a number of different road blocks that were put in place in addition to the most obvious ones—like being a college student, balancing your in-class and out-of-class responsibilities while taking on a new thing that has never been done before here," Gruver told JC Online.
Baier knows it's all worth it though.
Feeding America reports one in 10 of its adult clients is a student, and 31 percent have to choose between paying for food or for education. It's a real problem—one I, and many I know, have experienced firsthand. What Baier and Purdue—and many college campuses across America—are doing might seem small, but it can really make a difference when you're debating between food and rent, books or tuition.
"We just know that there is a need and even if it's only one person. That's still too many," Baier said.
For more information on how to donate to the ACE Food Pantry, email the Boiler Volunteer Network at BVN@purdue.edu. If you're looking for a food pantry on your campus, check out CUFBA and Food Finders Food Bank.