WCPO: Expanded Food Pantry at Northern Kentucky University Opens Its Doors

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — A food pantry on the campus of Northern Kentucky University completed its move from a small space inside a mail room, to a space more than seven times its size.

FUEL NKU, which stands for Feeding the University and Enriching Lives, moved from its location in the University Center to the Albright Health Center. The new space opened Monday and traffic has been “nonstop,” according to FUEL NKU director Jessica Averitt Taylor.

“When the students some in, their faces are incredible to see,” she said. “They just light up and we’re able to tell them, ‘Take as much as you need.’ And they do.”

Averitt Taylor said volunteers gave away 52 bags of food and nine bags of toiletries on Monday alone. At least 30 students dropped by to check out the new facility.

FUEL NKU’S mission is fighting hunger on campus and facilitating a dialogue regarding hunger at NKU. The move includes a new display for fresh produce, freezers, coolers, a coffee bar and work station with computers. It’s easy to forget, but not all students have access to their own laptops.

“We noticed that our students want to hang out and spend time with the practicum students placed here,” Averitt Taylor said. “We want to connect them to resources across campus and the community.”

 

A partnership between The Kroger Foundation and the food pantry helped pay for the move. The pantry works with Kroger in conjunction with the company’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative.

“It’s our commitment to ending hunger in the communities we call home,” said Erin Rolfes, corporate affairs manager for Kroger. “We’re out there looking for opportunities like this one to get the opportunity folks need to thrive.”

FUEL NKU was created in 2013 by social work students as a way to address hunger. The pantry provides students like Jessica Bartholomew with free nonperishable food items, produce and toiletries. She said she’s been utilizing the pantry’s services for about two years.

“There is so much food insecurity,” Bartholomew said. “There are so many nights where I’ve gone to sleep instead of eating, or I went to work and I was hungry. This cuts all that out.”

Bartholomew said she saves between $30 and $50 per week thanks to FUEL NKU — money she and many others students need to pay rent, bills and tuition.

“FUEL NKU has been the model for several other universities in the development of their own campus pantries,” according to the pantry’s website.

An official ribbon cutting for the pantry is set for Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Averitt Taylor calls the pantry a “nudge of extra support” to set students up for success.

“It’s still unreal to me,” she said. “I can’t believe students have taken this from a tiny dream of, none of them should be hungry, to this huge concept of — everyone should have access to college and high education and support and opportunities.”

NKU and Kroger Foundation Announce Partnership to Fight Hunger

November 8, 2018– Northern Kentucky University and The Kroger Foundation announce a partnership to fight food insecurity on NKU’s campus. The first phase of the partnership will expand the university’s food pantry, FUEL NKU, to more than seven-times its current size.

FUEL NKU provides food and essentials to students in a compassionate, confidential and safe environment. During the 2016-17 academic year, 650 students visited the pantry, and that number has increased every year.

“Food insecurity is a significant deterrent to students’ success. Students face difficult choices and often times don’t have money left for food. This can prevent so many from their ability to learn, thrive and complete their education. FUEL NKU covers this essential need and keeps our students from having to go hungry,” said President Ashish Vaidya. “I’m proud to partner with Kroger to enhance FUEL NKU’s services. Kroger has long, rich history of taking care of the communities it serves, and this is truly a wonderful example of a public private partnership to improve our students’ lives.”

FUEL NKU’s current location, a 300-square-foot old mailroom in the University Center, has limited offerings because of the space constraints. With Kroger’s investment, the pantry will move to a 2,300 square-foot suite in the Albright Health Center.

“FUEL NKU’s mission to feed the university and enrich lives connects directly to Kroger’s goal of creating a world without hunger” said Scott Hays, division president for the Cincinnati-Dayton division of Kroger. “When students know where their next meal is coming from, they can achieve better results. We’re proud to help NKU make positive change in these students’ lives.”

FUEL NKU’s new suite in the Albright Health Center will allow for refrigerated and freezer storage for healthier food options, expanded areas for students to visit and relax after visiting the pantry. The location will also have space to provide wrap around services for students for case management services, including connections to campus and community resources.

FUEL NKU was created by NKU Professor Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor in 2013, when she noticed students in her social work classes struggling with hunger. Over the past five years, FUEL NKU has also created a campus community committed to fighting hunger.

“This food pantry relies exclusively on the support of our campus and community partners. Kroger’s investment is a game changer– it will have an immense impact on our students lives,” said Dr. Averitt Taylor. “Kroger’s commitment to our pantry is a shining example of a Cincinnati icon making a difference. We are very grateful for its support.”

Construction on the FUEL NKU expansion will begin in late fall and is expected to be complete early 2020.

NKY Tribune: NKU, Kroger Foundation partner to fight food insecurity, expand university food pantry, FUEL NKU

Northern Kentucky University and The Kroger Foundation announce a partnership to fight food insecurity on NKU’s campus. The first phase of the partnership will expand the university’s food pantry, FUEL NKU, to more than seven times its current size.
 
FUEL NKU provides food and essentials to students in a compassionate, confidential and safe environment. During the 2016-17 academic year, 650 students visited the pantry, and that number has increased every year.
 
“Food insecurity is a significant deterrent to students’ success. Students face difficult choices and often times don’t have money left for food. This can prevent so many from their ability to learn, thrive and complete their education. FUEL NKU covers this essential need and keeps our students from having to go hungry,” said President Ashish Vaidya. “I’m proud to partner with Kroger to enhance FUEL NKU’s services. Kroger has a long, rich history of taking care of the communities it serves, and this is truly a wonderful example of a public-private partnership to improve our students’ lives.”

FUEL NKU’s current location, a 300-square-foot old mailroom in the University Center, has limited offerings because of the space constraints. With Kroger’s investment, the pantry will move to a 2,300 square-foot suite in the Albright Health Center.
 
“FUEL NKU’s mission to feed the university and enrich lives connects directly to Kroger’s goal of creating a world without hunger,” said Scott Hays, division president for the Cincinnati-Dayton division of Kroger. “When students know where their next meal is coming from, they can achieve better results. We’re proud to help NKU make positive change in these students’ lives.”
 
FUEL NKU’s new suite in the Albright Health Center will allow for refrigerated and freezer storage for healthier food options, expanded areas for students to visit and relax after visiting the pantry. The location will also have space to provide wrap-around services for students for case management services, including connections to campus and community resources. 
 
FUEL NKU was created by NKU Professor Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor in 2013 when she noticed students in her social work classes struggling with hunger. Over the past five years, FUEL NKU has also created a campus community committed to fighting hunger.
 
“This food pantry relies exclusively on the support of our campus and community partners. Kroger’s investment is a game changer – it will have an immense impact on our students’ lives,” said Dr. Averitt Taylor. “Kroger’s commitment to our pantry is a shining example of a Cincinnati icon making a difference.”
 
Construction on the FUEL NKU expansion will begin in late fall and is expected to be complete early 2020.
 
The Kroger Co. is dedicated to its Purpose: to Feed the Human Spirit™. Its nearly half-a-million associates serve over nine million customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names.
 
Northern Kentucky University is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Founded in 1968, it is a growing metropolitan university of more than 14,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff.

WCPO: Kroger donation will allow Northern Kentucky University's food pantry to expand

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- A partnership between The Kroger Foundation and Northern Kentucky University’s food pantry will help pay for a move from its location in a mailroom to a space more than seven times its size.

Professor Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor created FUEL NKU  in 2013 when she realized several of her students were hungry. The pantry served 650 students during the 2016-2017 academic year, and that number has increased each year.

The food pantry will move from its location in a 300-square-foot mailroom in the University Center to a 2,300-square-foot suite in the Albright Health Center. This will allow FUEL NKU to have refrigerators and freezers to provide healthier food options as well as areas for students to relax. The location will also allow for case management services, including connections to campus and community resources.

FUEL NKU’s mission aligns with Kroger’s goal to end hunger, Scott Hays, division president for the Cincinnati-Dayton division of Kroger, said in a statement.

“When students know where their next meal is coming from, they can achieve better results,” Hays said. “We’re proud to help NKU make positive change in these students’ lives.”

The donation is the first phase of a partnership to fight food insecurity on campus. FUEL NKU’s expansion is expected to be completed by early 2020.

NKU Magazine: How one campus food pantry is fueling the fight against hunger

"These students want to be here… but they’re hungry. The hardship they’re willing to endure for the sake of bettering their lives is just breathtaking.”

By Brent Donaldson
NKU Marketing + Communications

Karen White had always told her two kids that she put their needs first. But it still shocked Jasmine the day her mom revealed what those words actually meant. “One day,” Jasmine remembers, “my mom said, ‘When there wasn’t enough food, I gave it to you and your brother so you could eat.’” 

Today, Jasmine is 24 and close to graduating from NKU with a degree in Theatre. She anticipates moving someday to California or New York or maybe Chicago to kick-start her career. But she still has a full semester of classes before that happens, and she still anticipates dealing with the same challenge she’s faced for a long time: finding enough to eat.

Jasmine is one of dozens of students this year who will frequent FUEL NKU—Northern Kentucky University’s free food pantry program—to make sure they don’t go hungry. To use the service, students simply visit the pantry, show their student ID, sign a form, then fill up a bag with food and toiletries, free of charge. Jasmine says discovering FUEL changed a lot of things for her as a student.

“It makes me feel crazy when I don’t have anything to eat,” she says. “I don’t have much cash and there’s only so much that my mom can do. I don’t like to ask her too much because it makes me feel guilty, so I try to manage. But by using FUEL, I don’t worry as much. Sometimes I get a little, sometimes I get a lot.”

FUEL NKU is both a food pantry and a community fight against hunger. Its shelves of food and essentials provide nutritional assistance and other useful items to students in a compassionate, confidential, and safe environment. There is also a FUEL NKU board of directors as well as a student organization that meets regularly, purchases food, stocks the shelves, and “advertises” the program through flyers and social media.

But when the shelves go bare, there isn’t much to advertise. That’s why FUEL NKU needs donations from the campus community—especially around the holidays.

It’s a common misperception to think that hunger doesn’t exist on college campuses. But Dr. Jessica Taylor knows better.   

“I know that we all walk uphill both ways in the snow, but I have students come in with shaking hands who say they haven’t eaten in several days,” she says. “And that’s not acceptable to me.”

Taylor, an assistant professor in NKU’s Department of Counseling, Social Work, and Leadership, started FUEL NKU back in the fall of 2013 with one shelf of food in her office that she made available to a student who was going hungry. Three years later, that one shelf has turned into a multi-tiered program that assists dozens of students every week. FUEL NKU is today widely recognized as a model for other universities—almost all of which face similar issues.

“Universities are trying to include a more diverse student body,” Taylor says, “and I mean diversity across a range of possibilities. That means that we are intentionally recruiting and pulling in and encouraging students who a generation ago would not have even been able to access college. These students want to be here; they’re trying to be here. But they’re hungry. The hardship they’re willing to endure for the sake of bettering their lives is just breathtaking.”

Cheyenne Meredith knows something about that. Cheyenne used to hitch rides on freight trains (one of her tattoos honors the Guildford Rail System, now known as Pan Am Railways) and spent most of the past several years living on the streets. She’s rarely stayed in one city longer than two weeks and has had run-ins with the law. Cheyenne, 25, now lives in sober housing off campus and is working toward a degree in Spanish. She’s learning a new language and a new way of living.

Cheyenne says that FUEL can help students for whom hunger is the one big barrier to succeeding in school. “A hungry belly is a hungry belly no matter how much money you do or don’t have,” she says. Hunger has been “ingrained” in her, she says, ever since her early adulthood. And FUEL is part of why she’s calling NKU home after so many years without one.

“I’m part of something now, and that’s good,” she says. “I have mentors. I need to be here. This is what ties me to the community and keeps me from running off and doing what I did before.”

Dr. Taylor says that FUEL NKU owes its success to the support it’s received from that same campus community. “We exist completely on donations and partnerships with foodbanks. So, I am constantly begging, and every time I send out a call, people respond,” she says. “The College of Education and Human Services have been amazing. And the College of Business steps up on a regular basis. I will receive emails from them that say, ‘Hey, we did a fundraiser and raised money. When can we bring it to you?’

“It’s wonderful. I can be walking across campus and have someone walk up and hand me $20 for the pantry. The generosity is outstanding. I know I sound so much like a social worker, but it renews my faith in humanity on a regular basis. I see so many hungry students, and it’s easy to become disheartened. But we haven’t forgotten them at NKU.”

NKU Magazine: Dr. Green Shoes — Joe Cobbs "Going Green for Groceries" and FUEL NKU

“People on our campus are hungry; let's remove the barriers to food availability…”

By Tom Ramstetter
NKU Marketing + Communications

It won’t be hard to spot Joe Cobbs around campus this semester.

Dr. Cobbs, an assistant professor of sports business in the Haile/U.S. Bank College of Business, wears green shoes each day he teaches to raise awareness and spur donations to FUEL NKU — the new on-campus food pantry for students.

“I'm calling it 'Green for Groceries,' and I have donated a canned good to FUEL for each day of class that I will wear green shoes,” Dr. Cobbs says.

FUEL NKU regularly serves 20 students on campus in the fight against hunger. It’s a cause that inspired Dr. Cobbs and wearing green shoes to highlight that was a natural choice for him.

“For me, green is an inspiring color because of its fantastic manifestation in our natural environment as well as the connotation with GO (i.e., green light),” Dr. Cobbs says. “My hope in choosing green as my shoe color is that my students and colleagues will be similarly inspired, if only subtly.

“Green for Groceries is an intuitive way for me to use my green shoes to promote the important message that everyone on our campus can't afford basic groceries, and involvement with the FUEL effort allows me and you to engage in a local solution.”

The goal for FUEL NKU is to enrich the lives of the students it serves by providing nutritional assistance and other useful items to those students. The pantry provides a compassionate, confidential, and safe environment that respects dignity while aspiring to educate and facilitate dialogue in regards to hunger at NKU.

There is also an associated student organization, known as FUEL. 

“This entire project started with just one hungry student last fall, and our NKU students have really been leaders on every step,” says Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor, an assistant professor of social work in the College of Education & Human Services and a member of the FUEL NKU board of directors. “They organized a hunger awareness flash mob on campus this past spring, attended countless planning meetings, designed and distributed flyers, and just showed amazing initiative and dedication to social justice. This is what our community here at NKU is all about.” 

To keep achieving the goal, FUEL needs donations from the campus community.

“We always welcome donations of non-perishable food items and toiletries,” says Dr. Taylor. “Any donations are welcome, but the items that tend to be in the most demand at the moment include boxed macaroni and cheese, snack foods such as crackers, and toiletries such as toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. We are also hoping for shelving and a pushcart to help people get their donations to us.” 

Volunteers are also welcome. FUEL NKU will hold volunteer orientation sessions throughout the academic year for anyone interested in donating time to this effort. The sessions last about an hour. 

Dr. Cobbs was inspired right away.

“Dr. Greg Martin, a colleague in our Department of Marketing, Economics and Sports Business, has been keeping our faculty up to date with the development of FUEL,” Dr. Cobbs says. “Two elements that he described drew me to engage in a tangible way: first, the potential to directly impact students on our campus in a way that enhances their capacity for success in education and life; and second, the hard work of those involved to maintain the simplicity of the concept. People on our campus are hungry; let's remove the barriers to food availability.”

While it’s too early to gauge the impact of Dr. Cobbs’s green kicks, he has noticed some compliments for the shoes and a greater enthusiasm for the idea of Green for Groceries following a quick explanation of the cause.

“By the end of the semester, I hope there is a general awareness of FUEL that includes sustainable use of this campus resource through engagement with food donors, users, volunteers and conversationalists willing to promote the effort,” Dr. Cobbs says. “My green shoes and associated donation will be only a small part of a much larger effort around this campus. If my commitment can lead a few others to be involved in their own way, it will be worthwhile.”

Contact FUEL NKU at FUEL@nku.edu.

WCPO: NKU's campus food pantry helps fuel students' education

By: Paola Suro

Nearly 50 percent of American college students experience food insecurity -- the state of not having consistent access to affordable, nutritious food -- according to a study from Hunger on Campus. 

The need exists everywhere, including at Northern Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati, where campus food pantries serve hundreds of students who've found themselves stretched to a fiscal breaking point while pursuing higher education.

"A lot of our students are financially heavy and require a lot of financial aid (to attend)," Daniel Cummins, assistant dean of students at UC, said. "With that, they're making a choice of, are they spending their money on food or books? On food or rent? On food or keeping the electricity on?"

Stereotypes of college students often call to mind images of extremely privileged young people tapping on smartphones and swilling Starbucks lattes, but Cummins said that often isn't the case. College students come from all walks of life, he said, and starting from a position of financial insecurity shouldn't mean a young person loses out on their education.

"We're trying to be available and providing resources for students who are in need and trying to eliminate the stigma of being stereotyped as someone who is financially blocked," he said.

The Fuel NKU food pantry provides food and toiletries for students such as Tenneh Williams, who said she first came because she was struggling. She, and most of the pantry's clients, returned again and again to a place that provided her with the nonjudgemental help she needed.

"I go there like two times a week and just get as much food as I can and toiletries," she said. "That really helps me throughout the year."

Like all food pantries, Fuel NKU and the Bearcats Pantry are always in need of donations.