When you’re hungry, can you afford to buy food? If you can’t, you’re like many college students across the country. With the combined prices of college tuition, housing and bills students are left with little money to survive. Like other colleges, Middle Tennessee State University is home to many hungry students. Luckily, our campus offers many services that will help students eat.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” said Becca Seul, the Coordinator of Programs and Withdrawals at MTSU and the creator of the food pantry.
“It started after a student came in and asked for meal vouchers.” said Seul. “They hadn’t eaten in two days.”
The food pantry, which is located in the MT One Stop building, has everything from food to hygiene products, and every student is welcome to take what they need. To use the facility, a student simply needs to make an appointment.
“We don’t make it difficult for students to access it.” Seul said. “If a student is willing to say, ‘Hey, I’m hungry.’ they’re welcome.”
A student’s visit to the food pantry is very private. After arriving for their appointment, a counselor leads them to the pantry, and the student takes what they need. After, they are offered felt bags to conceal their items, and can leave out the back door if they wish.
Unfortunately, students are only allowed to visit the pantry one day a week, and have a limit to how many items they can take.
“We don’t let them grocery shop.” Seul said. “We have a lot of support, but the need is growing.”
According to the food pantry’s website, over 36,000 pounds of food have been donated to the pantry in the past three years. If a donator would like to support the cause, they can either drop off items (breakfast items and peanut butter are the most needed) or make a monetary donation.
If a student has a greater need, Seul can direct them to other networks. The food pantry’s website also has a list of resources that will provide help.
The food pantry is only one of the services available to students in need. Many of the campus ministries offer free meals to students, such as the Raiders for Christ student ministry, which has a free meal each Monday night at 6 p.m.
“We offer it, and whoever wants to come is welcome.” said Dean Dunning, RFC’s Campus Minister. “I mean, what better way to connect with students than around a table?”
Raiders for Christ does not require students to join them for service, but they welcome anyone interested.
“We strive to have a family atmosphere, and embrace people’s differences.” Dunning said, which is proven by the ministry’s heavy focus on international students.
“International students who come to MTSU may not have furniture or enough supplies to survive.” Dunning said. “Many don’t know who to approach, and we want to give them a support network they can turn to.”
Even though the organization only offers one meal a week, Raiders for Christ student ministry has many available resources they can direct students to for help.
One of the more well-known student ministries, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of MTSU, is a popular lunch destination for many students. Each Wednesday starting at 11:30 a.m., students can come to the BCM’s Noonday Café and enjoy a large home-cooked meal for only $2.
“We have several local churches that sponsor the meal each week, and the money goes to mission funds.” said Glenn Wallace, the BCM’s campus minister.
Similar to Raiders for Christ, the BCM does not require a student to attend their service.
“Our only agenda is to get to know you.” Wallace said. “There isn’t a sermon or devotion, we only focus on the table and the fellowship of students.”
Noonday Café’s meals are different each week, and range everywhere from chicken to tacos.
The food draws people in, that’s for sure.” said Corrie Wunder, an undeclared sophomore at MTSU.
Wunder, a recent of the weekly lunch, is already establishing herself as a regular at the café.
“I’ve come the past four or five Wednesdays, and I’ve made lots of friends.” Wunder said. “It’s really laid back.”
Despite the resources available to college students, many go hungry every day because they are either embarrassed or unaware of the services offered. MTSU students have several resources they can access to improve their situations and get the help they need. The difficulties students face can be overcome.
As Dean Dunning said, “Finding help is as easy as opening a door.”