Be Concerned, the largest food pantry in Northern Kentucky, in now offering supplemental food to Mount St. Joseph University students. What makes this program different from some others in the area is that they turn away no one. You could show up today, dressed as you are, and they would help.
I sat down with Sister Karen Elliott, Director of Mission Integration, and Keith Lanser, Manager of Service Learning and Civic Engagement here at the Mount, to talk about what students can expect from Be Concerned, and what this program means to them. Lanser, along with Andrew Brunsman, the Executive Director at Be Concerned who also holds a position on the Service Learning Committee Advisory Board at the Mount, identified a problem and came up with a solution. Lanser says he first recognized this problem while teaching a Core 115 class on community service. “How can I have my students talk about contributing to the common good when they have clear needs that aren’t being met?” he asked himself. “I can’t imagine not having stable housing, or not eating, and being successful in college.”
Students have enough stress dealing with the associated responsibilities of school life. There is no reason any student should be worried about where they’ll find their next meal. Be Concerned and their Supplemental Food Program is designed to help every student at the Mount, regardless of social demographic, to have enough food to sustain themselves throughout their college career.
Sister Elliott, who has now taken over the responsibility of implementing the program on campus, had nothing but positive things to say about the program at the Mount. “It’s easy to say I’ve got mine and you’ve got yours. At Mount St. Joseph I really believe that you could take the most seemingly curmudgeonly person on campus, ask them for help, and they’ll help,” she says, “That, to me, is the Mount St. Joseph University difference.”
The program has changed since it was introduced last year. Previously, students would fill out a form and select items from a list that they were interested in receiving. Be Concerned would pack those items for individual students (usually about two grocery bags) and then deliver them to campus for pick up. Now, after filling out a form, students can show up to the food pantry on campus and “shop” for themselves. If there are items that students need that aren’t available at the time, such as diapers and baby food, all they have to do is ask. Be Concerned will do what they can to oblige.
According to Lanser, about 175 students were helped last semester, but when asked whether or not the program had been successful, Sister Elliott gave a thought-provoking response, “It’s a hard question you ask: Has it been successful? I would love to say ‘no, it’s not successful because we don’t need it at all; all of our students have the food they need’, but that’s not the truth. The truth is a need has been identified and responded to, but that need still exists. I hope we will have this partnership with Andy as long as we have students in need.”
Students interested in participating in the Be Concerned food pantry on campus can pick up a form from the Wellness Center. It’s that easy.