Ohio State Newark/COTC Student Food Pantry Use Soars During Pandemic

Woman standing near shelves of food with mask on smiling at camera

Jamie White already knew that many college students struggle with not having enough food. White, who coordinates the Campus Corner: Student Food Pantry at The Ohio State University at Newark and Central Ohio Technical College (COTC), noted that a year ago 47% of campus students surveyed stated that at some point in the semester the food they bought just didn’t last and that they didn’t have money to buy more.

Also, 50% of students who responded indicated that they ate less than they should because they didn’t have money for food. But that was before COVID-19. Fast forward to autumn 2020.

In the first four weeks of the semester, White reported that the Campus Corner saw a 50% increase in the number of students who visited the pantry compared to last autumn. White, the director of retention and student success initiatives for Ohio State Newark, referenced a recent report published by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, which shared critical information about how the pandemic has affected food insecurity in college students. A survey conducted by the Hope Center in April-May during the pandemic shows that 44% of students at two-year institutions and 38% at four-year institutions were affected by food insecurity.

“This is why the Campus Corner is such an important piece of a student’s holistic success plan,” said White. “We’ve seen an increase in student need this semester likely due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Given the already high pre-pandemic food insecurity level of students, the Campus Corner staff knew they needed to find a way to reopen the pantry safely for autumn semester within COVID protocols. So, prior to the semester start, they created an online ordering and curbside pickup process. Students can now view available items online and order what they need.

“We started the new online ordering process because we wanted to offer a safe and healthy way for students to still receive the food they need during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said White. “Some of our students are experiencing a range of food insecurity from mild to severe, and it’s critical that the Campus Corner remain open and help to provide the resources they need. I’m glad that we have been able to help so many of our students in need since we have reopened.”

The Campus Corner, which will celebrate its third anniversary on October 30, is an emergency pantry providing non-perishable food, personal care items, as well as household items. Students can visit up to 15 times per year. If additional food resources are needed, staff ensure students are connected and receive the support they need. It has distributed 650 items to students since reopening on August 17.

“We are very proud to have the support of Chuck Moore and the Food Pantry Network of Licking County in the opening of the Campus Corner as well as continuing to be a resource for us over the years,” White added. “We have been humbled by the overwhelming donations from local community businesses as well as students, staff and faculty on campus. They have been the source of most of the items given out since the pantry opened.”

The Campus Corner is currently accepting the following donations: ready meals, healthy snacks, breakfast items (not cereal), rice, crunchy peanut butter, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, laundry detergent and toilet paper. Items can be dropped off at the Office of Student Life Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in the John L. and Christine Warner Library and Student Center, room 226. Cash donations should be directed to the Food Pantry Network of Licking County. Students can order from the Campus Corner online at go.osu.edu/CampusCorner or go.cotc.edu/CampusCorner.

“We continue to change our policies and practices to better serve and keep up with the changing needs of our students on campus,” said White. “It’s not our students that should change; it’s the institutions that need to change. This includes providing support for their basic human needs. And by doing so, we are helping to provide them with the opportunity to be successful academically in college.”

Central Ohio Technical College and The Ohio State University at Newark have forged an outstanding array of educational opportunities for the central Ohio region and beyond. This partnership is viewed as a model for higher education in the state of Ohio. At Central Ohio Technical College, students gain hands-on, applicable experience to begin working in the field or to transfer those credits toward a bachelor’s degree program. The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors.

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC has four campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.