Tiger Pantry wins “Best Auxiliary” at SEC exchange

Director Hessler hopes award will spread awareness for food insecurity.

Tiger Pantry won the “Best Auxiliary” award at the SEC Student Government Association Exchange on July 24-26, beating out auxiliary programs from 13 other schools that attended the student government conference.

Tiger Pantry, a food pantry run by MU students largely for other MU students and faculty members, has served more than 2,000 students, staff and faculty since opening, and has provided more than 28,000 pounds of food this year, according to a Missouri Students Association news release.

“Each school selected an auxiliary program to enter at the exchange,” MSA Senate Speaker Kevin Carr said. “All the advisors for student government came together, sat down and talked about the merits of the programs. Five to six months in advance, every school sent in packets describing the achievements of their auxiliary, and Tiger Pantry was what we selected.”

Tiger Pantry is not the only one of its kind. Auburn University, University of Florida, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University and several other SEC schools also have food pantries. MU’s, however, won the award out of all of the auxiliary programs.

“The strategic growth of Tiger Pantry was unique between all of the services, departments and auxiliaries within the SEC student governments,” Co-Director of Student Communications David Wallace said in an email. “Tiger Pantry has continued to innovate its services year after year. (Tiger Pantry) has been able to accommodate the dietary restrictions by providing eggs, fresh seeds for growing vegetables, and providing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to qualifying individuals.”

Tiger Pantry Director Tyler Hessler said that he hopes the award will raise awareness for food insecurity on college campuses. Food insecurity occurs when “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year,” according the the Food and Drug Administration. The Missouri Hunger Atlas, a research project by MU’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, found 14 percent of households in Boone County were food insecure in 2013, a number consistent with the national average.

“We see a lot of food around campus, but it might not be the best food,” Hessler said. “We see places like the Mizzou Market, where they have a bunch of different food items, but it’s usually just a bunch of calorie fillers – fatty foods, sugary foods, and there’s not as much of the healthy produce, healthy vegetables, grains and things like that.”

Another part of the problem is that many places at MU do not accept the SNAP, colloquially known as food stamps. For lower-income students and faculty or staff members, this makes getting food difficult.

“A lot of places on campus don’t allow you to use SNAP,” Hessler said. “Getting there is an issue, as so many places (that accept SNAP) are downtown, and not always accessible to students. We have to make people aware that this is a situation, and we need to get more places where people can get accessible food on campus.”

While Tiger Pantry celebrates its win at the exchange, board members recognize their work is not done. Hessler said that they hope to increase the amount of food they distribute this year, as well as the quality of options available, such as offering more of the protein-rich foods they often run out of.

“I think it’s a big win for us at Tiger Pantry,” Hessler said. “Food insecurity is a big problem on college campuses nationwide, and winning this in front of everyone in the SEC really shows how much food pantries are needed on college campuses.”

People interested in donating or using the pantry should visit the Tiger Pantry website at tigerpantry.missouri.edu for more information.

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