There was a need.
Tiger Pantry was founded by Nick Droege. As a member of the MSA Executive Cabinet (Director of Student Services), Nick attended the SEC Student Government Exchange at the University of Arkansas in January 2012. He was fascinated with the Full Circle Pantry that the University of Arkansas’ Voluntary Action Center operates to provide food and assistance to students, staff and faculty in need. As soon as they arrived back in Columbia, he immediately began researching the need in Missouri, Columbia, and Mizzou. It took no time to realize that this was a serious need on this campus. Below are some facts that Nick was able to uncover:
- 15,000+ students on need based aid
- 6,000+ students that are recipients of pell grants
- 1,000+ students that have an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) between $0-$1,000
- nearly 20 students reported that they were homeless last semester
- We have a large international student population that sometimes struggle financially for many reasons
- Many staff members are paid at or below the poverty level and have to support families
- Some graduate students are paid extremely low stipends and have to support families
With evidence to support the need of this service, Droege began talking to administrators, student organizations, departments, and academic colleges. It wasn’t long before he had the unanimous support of administration and the campus to pursue this project. Kiara Goodwin, Nick’s good friend whom he met on a mission trip to Jamaica, jumped on board and led the effort with him. In February, Dr. Anne Deaton (Chancellor Deaton’s wife) agreed to be the advisor for the project. The addition of Dr. Deaton to the project enabled Nick to connect to resources all over campus and in the community to make this project possible. One of those resources was Peggy Kirkpatrick (Executive Director of the Central and Northeast Missouri Food Bank). Peggy was quick to provide advice and benchmarks that needed to be reached in order to get Tiger Pantry off the ground. The Central and Northeast Missouri Food Bank then offered Tiger Pantry operate under its wing and be an official agent of the Food Bank.
The Tiger Pantry idea has gone from just a food pantry to now becoming a resource for clients to sign up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to educate themselves on health and nutrition via the Wellness Resource Center, to get financial advice from the Office of Financial Success, to connect to services that will provide childcare and parenting advice via ParentLink, in addition to many other community resources. Currently, the team is working hard to garner campus-wide support and to educate the campus community about Tiger Pantry’s services and the issue of hunger.