The Tech Food Pantry has partnered with Residential Life and has moved from its small space in the cafeteria of Foundation Hall into a three-bedroom apartment located in Tech Village.
“We’ve been really fortunate to receive this space from Res Life. Charlie Macke, the president of Residential Life, offered us this space to see a positive growth in the food pantry," said Michelle Huddleston, coordinator of the Service Learning Center in charge of Tech’s food pantry.
The TTU Food Pantry has grown from serving an average of 5 students per week in 2013 to an average of 20 to 25 students per week this semester.
“There’s a hidden hunger within campus. You just don’t expect students to come to college and be hungry,” said Huddleston. “Many students are paying for their classes but choosing to ‘rough it out’ when it comes to figuring out their food and shelter situations. The Food Pantry has grown to where you can almost ‘come in and shop’ for the things you need for the week.”
Kaitlin Salyer, assistant coordinator for the Service Learning Center, expresses how the Tech Food Pantry also assists with items other than food.
“We offer basic household items such as toiletry items. We have shampoos and even backpacks for students who need them,” said Salyer. “We even refer them to other places that may be of assistance like the Cookeville Pregnancy Center, the Cookeville Rescue Mission and more.”
“If we’re not able to meet the needs of someone, we always have a place to refer them to,” said Huddleston. “And the numbers to those I refer them with, are my personal friends. They are great people to talk to.”
One of those contacts was Tamika Parker, coordinator of inviting and sending at First United Methodist Church. Parker is in charge of the church’s food pantry which runs every Tuesday from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
“We also have a clothing distribution every three months from the congregation and the community. Our parking garage is usually full of clothes and small home goods,” said Parker. “Sometimes we’re able to offer financial assistance for those who need help with their utilities or rent. We ask basic information about the recipient and that information goes to a team who decides if and how much help can be offered. Even if we don’t have the funds to help, we’ll always refer to someone who can. We’ll never turn you away.”
“It’s important for a student to feel comfortable about receiving help. We encourage students to talk with student affairs or come see us,” said Salyer, “There is no need to hide or feel ashamed. We’re here to help.”
The TTU Food Pantry is open Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Donations are encouraged and welcomed at any time within those hours or can be taken to Room 108 of the Roaden University Center. The food pantry is located in the same building as the laundry room in Tech Village at 910 N. Willow Avenue. Entrance to the food pantry is through the side door.