UCO celebrates Hunger Action Month

One out of every six Oklahomans face food insecurity and the University of Central Oklahoma food pantry and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma are working together to bring attention to those in need. 

September kicks off Hunger Action Month and last week Old North was lit up with orange lighting for an evening to raise awareness of food insecurity in the state.

In the past, UCO has partnered with many associations to raise awareness to causes such as poverty and breast cancer. President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar is also on the Board of Directors at the Oklahoma Food Bank. 

16 percent of Oklahoma County experiences food insecurity. In fiscal year 2017, the Regional Food Bank distributed more than 43.4 million meals through a network of 1,300 community-based partner agencies, charitable feeding programs and schools. (Regional Food Bank Website)

The food bank at UCO is called Central Pantry. Brian Blevins, coordinator of community engagement, helps manage the pantry along with two student workers.

Blevins said, “My job is to help with keeping donations and inventory on track, plus pick up donations on Fridays.” 

Homeland, various churches and a variety of donors provide donations. This is an issue college students everywhere face, and many students on campus are encouraged to take advantage of the pantry. 

Blevins stated, “This is something new, and it’s only starting to pick up more steam.”  

The pantry was established Nov. 17, 2012, after UCO Community Engagement had conversations with the food pantries throughout the OKC community and was informed of the high number of UCO students utilizing their services, according to the pantry website. 

From posts on campus social media and having other organizations reach out for donations and help running food drives, the UCO Central Pantry is there to help those who are scared to ask for it. 

While it’s only a supplementary pantry, meaning they do not have meats or dairies, sometimes the pantry has to point in the direction of other resources for the ones that need it.

Blevins believes the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more people to step forward and not be afraid to ask for help. Adrienne Nobles, vice president for communications and public affairs said, “the drive to raise awareness for the cause is a great thing.” 

“UCO is a part of this community and being able to come together and raise awareness is a cornerstone for success on campus or the community,” Nobles said.

Community engagement is what UCO and the pantry mutually strive for and being able to get students to invest in the resources will help lighten the load.

Blevins said it has helped reflect community struggles as well as personal struggles. He believes that it has taught him to be more patient and understand why people choose to use the resources.

The Central Pantry is located in Room 151 on the first floor of the Nigh University Center. If there is not a volunteer available in the pantry, visit Community Engagement in Room 141 of the Nigh University Center for assistance.

Masks are required at all times in the Nigh and in the pantry. Remember to socially distance as well while shopping.

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