Emily Pineda-Duarte, reporter

Rosemary Chesney, editor

Berry College — “The Market,” a food center located in the Ladd Center, is a new resource providing free commodities for Berry students.

This year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Department of Recreation implemented a new campus-wide initiative, “The Market,” to combat food insecurity. Michael McElveen, the Assistant Dean of Student Wellness, took a large internal role in creating the program.

According to McElveen, faculty members began to raise concerns throughout the past few years that students did not have the food they needed to nourish themselves.

“During COVID, we had some time and motivation to address this issue for students,” McElveen said. “Addressing food insecurity for students has always been on the radar.”

Student Wellness began their mission by providing food boxes for students who left and returned to Berry at the beginning of COVID. This initiative was well-received by students, and McElveen knew that he wanted to expand the idea with other partnerships.

“Haley Smith, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion, has been a tremendous partner in getting this off the ground and keeping it going,” McElveen says.

Several faculty and staff members quickly began looking for locations to start The Market. The Ladd Center made the most sense, having the health center, counseling center, BRAVE and residence life offices.

“There’s zero judgement, and zero qualifications for students to utilize it,” McElveen said. “The idea is to grow so that we’re providing more information and initiatives coming out of this than just The Market.”

Sophomore Kori Pittens collaborates with The Market as the Student Coordinator for Anti-Hunger Initiatives. Pittens’s job is to collect information from students’ needs, create inventory lists for The Market and stock it with products. The Market provides frozen food, canned goods, protein and cereal bars, yogurt, condiments, hygienic products and medicine, among other essentials. Aramark provides most donated food products.

Pittens and Market staff members create bi-weekly lists to send to Aramark requesting desired food products. The Market is also in the process of designing tote bags to sell to students as a way of promoting the initiative.

“My aspiration with The Market is for food insecurity to be less stigmatized,” Pittens said. “I think it’s important to be sympathetic to people and understand what people are going through, not making it a taboo idea.”

The Market’s extended vision is not only to combat current food insecurity, but also to create a hub for centralized information about local resources.

“COVID began to amplify the idea that not all students have a safe place to go,” McElveen said. “If you don’t have your basic needs met, it’s really hard to learn.”

One challenge with the new program, is navigating student food orders without having an overflow of food. The Market has provided a QR code on the front door to combat the issue so students can request items they believe are essential and needed.

The Recreation department and The Dean of Students Office both help fund The Market by purchasing a freezer and refrigerator. Recreation continued their efforts by beginning The First Annual Disc Golf Association Tournament in September on campus, where they raised over $900 that will go directly to The Market.

McElveen and his team are in the process of creating more fundraisers that will expand the Market to increase funds and spread awareness on campus. Their goal is to alleviate food insecurity within the student body.

Posted by Viking Fusion

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