Southern Union students raise support for food pantry in Valley

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

A group of 12 people and a giving community can make a world of difference to students in need. The Bison Food Pantry at Southern Union State Community College is set to serve around 600 by the end of the year thanks to the effort of a group of students. 

Since Communications Professor Anna Reed took over the food pantry, the program has seen a huge growth. In the fall of 2022, the pantry served 87 students. By the spring 2023, it had served over 160 students across the college’s three campuses.

“We cast a wide net,” Reed said. “…It was a very successful campaign. We got a lot of community support from that area. and it was very much appreciated.”

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The pantry began four years ago with the goal of reducing the short-term food insecurity that students face. According to Reed, one in three college students faces food insecurity at some point in the United States. 

“That’s the national statistic,” Reed said. “…We are serving a need that’s definitely there.” 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t the space or means for advertising it to the community. However, in 2022, Reed, a communications professor, expanded the pantry and began to advertise. 

As a project for her Fundamentals of Human Communications class, she assigned her 12 Valley students to work as a group to advertise the food pantry in the community. With each using their strengths and resources, the students were able to see a huge jump in local industry support. 

Reed said the project helped her students learn with a more hands-on approach. 

“People love to dread group work,” Reed said. 

However, she said the project got them practical experience working in a group and playing to each member’s strengths and connections. 

“I hope that they learned that just a little teamwork working together. We can get something accomplished really easily,” Reed said. “And they did all use their strengths and just made it happen. We will be able to serve a lot of students from their work.”

One student in the class had a connection at the Chambers County Developmental Authority and asked for help spreading the word about the pantry. From there, the group was able to get donations from the Chambers County Public Library in Valley, Alabama Power, Daedong Hi-Lex of America and other industries in the Valley and Chamber County area. 

The food pantry serves students at the Valley, Opelika and Wadley campuses. Students fill out a short form and are then able to pick up their package at any campus the following day. The food package includes a week’s worth of food. 

“Our goal is to alleviate short term food insecurity and help them get through school, so they can get out there and get into their career world,” Reed said. 

The pantry accepts protein such as canned tuna, chicken, chilli and pork and beans. They also accept canned vegetables, starches like macaroni and cheese and pasta, breakfast, snacks and basic necessities like soap, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products.

When supplies allow, the food pantry also provides toiletries to students who need it. Reed said they try to provide access to other resources students can benefit from like SNAP benefits and community organizations.