It was only the first week back, and Spartans came out early on a cool Saturday morning on Jan. 19th. The 15 different service projects lasted from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Some past and current community partners for this extraordinary day included Spartan Open Pantry, Greensboro Urban Ministry, and Hannah’s Bridge.
After students checked in at tables in the Elliott University Center (EUC) Cone Ballroom for a day of giving, they waited around until the group photo was taken and departed on foot or by bus. An interesting experience that takes place close to UNCG’s campus is volunteering with the Spartan Open Pantry. Students are able to work as a team with friends or other students they meet for the first time.
A day of volunteering with the pantry consists of removing cans from shelves, and sorting them on tables by brands and similar types of non-perishables. Students broke into groups, laminating labels for the shelves, decorating boxes with the Spartan Open Pantry (SOP) logo, planting vegetables such as microgreens and bok choy, folding clothes and cleaning the stage which holds the shelves and other items for the goods.
After those steps were completed, the non-perishables were restacked. Items were separated and placed in sections such as vegetables, vegetable soup, soup with meat, and beans. Once students had finished restocking the shelves, they then had a closing discussion about how the process felt when they spent this time providing a service, whether it was their first time or something they happen to do frequently.
During this discussion, one of the coordinators for the Spartan Open Pantry shared that at least 35 percent of students at UNCG are food insecure. So what is food insecurity? Feeding America states that, “food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines insecurity as, “a lack of consistent access to food for an active, healthy life.”
While both meanings may not apply in all circumstances, these two definitions seem to explain clearly how people in this situation are affected. In 2017, one in eight Americans were food insecure, resulting in 40 million Americans in need of food. This includes more than 12 million children nationwide.
Communicating the need for what can be done is a great start, whether it is finding ways to start nonprofits, just donating goods or having events at schools, churches, malls, etc. Giving away non-perishable foods might help decrease the stress and worry of not knowing where a person will get their next meal from.
With the help of Associated Campus Ministries located at 500 Stirling Street across from the EUC and The Wesley-Luther Foundation, UNCG students and staff are welcome to receive food assistance on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Hot meals are given on Mondays and Wednesdays at the on-campus location in the Associated Campus Ministries Building as well as at the Fellowship Hall of College Place UMC, located at 509 Tate Street across from the Weatherspoon Museum.
When UNCG is on break or there is a holiday, the SOP is only open from 5 to 7 p.m. In addition to the distribution hours, food or other donations can be dropped off from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Associated Campus Ministries front desk or by appointment. Sometimes collection boxes can be found in locations on campus such as the residence hall Weil-Winfield, the Student Health Center, and the first floor of the Student Affairs Office in the Mossman building.
This one service event doesn’t have to only take place during MLK Day of Service. Volunteers can come to work during distribution hours on Tuesdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Like this incredible organization, there are countless others who give back in Greensboro and other cities and towns across the country.
As Martin Luther King Jr. continues to be a remarkable example for love and equality, he should also be thought of as a man who felt that service was important, too. “Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service,” is a quote by the former minister and activist that all Spartans should live by and follow.