Tiger Pantry surpasses goals, has plans to expand presence in Columbia

Tiger Pantry has distributed more than 37,000 pounds of food since its start as an organization.
Mikala Compton / Graphic Designer

A few weeks ago, staff members of Tiger Pantry, including Assessment Coordinator Satya Kothapalli, unearthed the pantry’s first ever food-intake document.

“It was basically just a shopping list of different items,” Kothapalli said. “We started out tracking our intake in ounces, and now we track them in pounds.”

Since its establishment as a Missouri Students Association auxiliary, Tiger Pantry has distributed more than 37,000 pounds of food to its clients and has reached out to almost 900 families and clients, MSA Director of Student Communications Gunnar Johanson said in an email.

Tiger Pantry founder Nick Droege got the idea for Tiger Pantry after he attended the 2012 SEC Student Government Exchange at the University of Arkansas, which has its own student-run food pantry, Full Circle Pantry, according to Tiger Pantry’s website.

Tiger Pantry Director Lauren McDermott said she intends to create an even bigger presence on campus by creating more volunteer opportunities for students and community members.

“My goal right now is to implement a farm volunteer and a food bank volunteer program and food bank volunteer programs for people who aren’t able to do the weekly commitments,” McDermott said.

McDermott was a volunteer when Tiger Pantry first opened in 2012. She joined the executive board as the volunteer coordinator before she became the director.

“(The pantry) has changed so much,” McDermott said. “Everything was in the trial stage; it was pretty common for everything to change in, like, two weeks.”

She said she feels the pantry is much more reliable now. It now receives donations of fresh produce from local farms in addition to the food it receives from the food bank and the bins the pantry has around campus.

“It’s not just about giving people food, it’s (about) giving people healthy and nutritious food, which is, I think, a huge accomplishment for us,” McDermott said.

Over the past year, Tiger Pantry has hosted 110 monetary and food fundraisers, according to Johanson.

Fundraising Coordinator Morgan Wootten said one of the biggest fundraisers was one with the Gaines/Oldham Black Cultural Center.

The fundraiser was a competition between the BCC’s Greek organizations to see who could raise the most food.

The fundraiser brought in approximately 1,200 pounds of food.

“We received five bins, which are each about 160 pounds,” McDermott said. “That was a really, really successful event.”

Like McDermott, Wootten was a volunteer before she joined the pantry’s executive board last fall.

She said the pantry has also expanded its executive board.

“We’ve added new positions, such as a resource team coordinator and pick-up team coordinator,” she said. “I think that just shows how much we’ve actually grown as an organization because we’re trying to expand on what we can actually do. We’ve (also) been wanting to get our name out a lot more, and … that has happened just through marketing and fundraisers on campus.”

Wootten is applying for a second term as fundraising coordinator. She has plans to create a big annual fundraiser for the pantry.

Tiger Pantry has more upcoming events, including MSA’s SWIPES event, which occurs at the end of every semester. Students with dining hall plans can use their extra meal swipes to buy food for the pantry.

However, of the fundraiser’s 600 pounds of food donations, 100 pounds of the food was expired, Wootten said in an email.

She added that the pantry hasn’t met with Campus Dining Services yet to discuss the issue.

This semester, SWIPES will be held on May 1 and 2.

Wootten said the fundraiser is a good way to kick off the summer, as long as the food they receive is not expired.

Kothapalli said the pantry’s goals keep growing. It distributes, on average, 400 to 500 pounds of food and has established relationships with Lucky’s Food Market and the Boone County Food Bank.

“Seeing how much we’ve changed … is tremendous, and we are definitely going to keep going,” Kothapalli said.

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