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Weber Cares seeks to help hungry students

20120823Food Pantry (Tyler Brown)-3
(Photo by: Tyler Brown) Canned goods sit on the floor of the Weber Cares food pantry. Weber Cares is operated through the Center for Community Engaged Learning.

Weber State University knows students and faculty can fall on hard times. To help combat hunger in the WSU community, the Center for Community Engaged Learning created the Weber Cares program.

Weber Cares is operated through the Center for Community Engaged Learning and focuses on making sure every WSU student or faculty member knows where their next meal is coming from. Steve Strombel, the program’s chair, said the program includes access to a fully stocked food pantry and the voucher program, which allows students with an immediate need to access up to a $10 value at any of the campus’ establishments.

“Students can (participate in Weber Cares) in a variety of ways,” said Mike Moon, assistant director for the Center for Community Engaged Learning. “The first is by donating to the program. The largest population of our students . . . will be the donors to the program — (we) always accept nonperishable goods and monetary donations — and the second is the student population that can participate . . . students who would use the program.”

Weber Cares is intended to make participation simple. The food pantry is located on the fourth floor of the Shepherd Union Building in Room 402, where a volunteer will be stationed to aid students by handing out bags of canned food, 12–3 p.m. Monday through Friday. If the need is time-sensitive, the individual will be given access to the voucher program.

The program differs from others in that no proof of need is necessary to utilize the pantry or the vouchers, although a statement of need is requested, along with the individual’s name and some basic contact information.

“We get a lot of help through different organizations on campus through the community-involved leaders . . . but our main purpose is to give anybody at Weber State that doesn’t have food security,” Strombel said. “So they can come in, get food . . . no questions asked.”

According to Moon, Weber Cares exists to “eliminate food insecurity, which is a lack of knowledge of (where) your next meal or your food will come from. With the vouchers, there’s much more of an immediate need. The voucher program is designed so students don’t have to wait to get home, unpackage the food and cook it in order to eat.”

To qualify for access to the first voucher, a participant must be a current WSU student and willing to give a statement of need.

Weber Cares also works with resources in the community and on campus, such as the Student Wellness Center, to help students in need find low-income health options and financial planning experts.

“I think a lot of people are unaware of the college need, as far as, you know, they make jokes about how college kids can only afford Top Ramen to eat every day, but a lot of the time that’s true,” said Tess Woodward, last year’s Weber Cares chair. “It was really eye-opening just to see that my own classmates were the ones that were struggling, and that the need is everywhere.”

The pantry is fully volunteer-based and stocked by students for students. Strombel emphasized that anyone in the student body could help, saying they were always looking for donations to keep the food pantry stocked. With boxes set up around the Shepherd Union Building and other buildings on campus, donating anything from cans of soup to ramen could help students in need.

“We hope that students take advantage of the program,” Moon said. “We hope that it’s a utilized resource for students who need the program, and just as much, we hope it’s a resource that students utilize who don’t need the program, that they’re donating to the program. In an ideal world, we’ve got plenty of donations and we’ve got plenty of people using it.”

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