The fortitude and persistence of Haley Moraniec, a recently graduated undergraduate, and a first year MSW graduate student, led EMU to a university-wide cultural transformation on how we see, support, and understand our students. Haley recognized that the needs for food access for our own EMU students were not that dissimilar to the needs of local low-income residents. A first generation college student, who has had to work to finance her own college journey, Haley understood the struggle of students in balancing learning and everyday living. Most critically, Haley understood that many of our students could not always pay for school, and also pay for food. Working through many university systems over two-years, Haley launched EMU's first food pantry as a way to off-set the cost of living while learning. Many students create thoughtful programs throughout their college tenure, but Haley created something foundational, a food pantry that will provide support and access to students for years to come.
I developed a passion for food justice when I served as a Volunteer Coordinator for Eastern Michigan University's volunteer center, VISION. Inspired by community-based organizations like Growing Hope and Earthworks Urban Garden that fight for food justice, I began researching how other Universities combat barriers that students face to college completion, and subsequently learned about campus-based food pantries. EMU's student population is both racially diverse, and economically challenged. 70% of EMU students work 30 hours or more a week, mostly to pay for college. Many EMU students use their money for tuition, and do not have extra money to feed themselves.
In 2013, I wrote a proposal to the administration for a student food pantry. For two years, I worked to launch this pantry, as many in our community did not accept that our students were hungry. Following a presentation to the University Regents, I was able to forge a partnership with our local food rescue organization, locate space, devise policies, train workers and organize food drives. EMU opened the doors to Swoop's Student Food Pantry on September 21, 2015. Since opening, the pantry has had over 2,000 student visits and provided 32,000 pounds of food.