Records show there are more than 500 food banks on college campuses nationwide and Norfolk State University recently joined their ranks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 25.
So far, hundreds of donations have been received at the food bank, which is located at the Drs. Melvin and Patricia Stith Alumni House, 2426 Corprew Ave. Donations can be dropped off Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Please phone (757) 823-8135.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Faith M. Fitzgerald, executive director of Housing and Residence Life at Norfolk State. “More than 200 items have been received … We are still accepting donations.”
Social media posts and vague painful memories prompted many of the donations that were typically supplied by alumni and university supporters.
Fitzgerald said the idea for the food bank took flight after she and Area Coordinator Brianna Steel attended a national conference on food insecurities. “We discussed how our freshmen students typically exhaust their student-meal-plan-dining-dollars by mid-semester and lack access to food after our campus eateries are closed,” Fitzgerald said.
Steele mentioned the food bank to her mother, Norfolk State graduate Joey Steele. They shared the idea of a foodbank with the Peninsula Alumni Chapter. In November 2015, the chapter decided to adopt Babbette Smith Hall (nicknamed Twin Towers). As time passed, the idea sprouted wings and others began to inquire.
Fitzgerald said, “Food pantries are currently located in Babbette Smith North Residence Hall (freshmen females), Babbette Smith South Residence Hall (freshmen males), Midrise Honors Residential College (honors, co-ed), and Spartan Suites (upperclassmen, co-ed). A fifth food pantry is planned to open in early Spring 2018 in the Student Center.”
In July, Norfolk State’s food pantry joined the College and University Food Bank Alliance of America. Then, Norfolk State was the only Historically Black College and University in Virginia registered with the alliance.
Fitzgerald said, “We are receiving positive feedback from alumni who have seen the social media flyers and donated … Several alumni have also stated they are donating because they remember when they were struggling college students with little money or didn’t have a car and little access to food off-campus. In addition, many of those who have given specifically cite doing so because of fond memories of living in Babbette Smith Hall (Twin Towers).
“It is this nostalgic feeling most of the alumni who give say makes them feel attached to the residence hall most freshmen lived in during their first year at NSU. Some alumni have also volunteered to help receive donations or work in the food pantry.”
By Rosaland Tyler