Dean of Students, Dr. Nichole Lewis, right, shows off the new Vikings Care Food Pantry located in the old student center next to the post office. The food pantry was rededicated during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Sept. 30.
Being a university student can be challenging, and perhaps even more so when someone is coping with food insecurity. It’s for that reason, Elizabeth City State University opened the Vikings Care Food Pantry back in 2018, under the direction of then faculty advisor Dr. Jennifer Brown. Now, nearly three years later, the pantry has been rededicated with a new look, more access and a big mission to feed more students across campus.
“We have a new location, more square footage and the layout is more open,” said Dean of Students, Dr. Nichole Lewis.
The new food pantry facility is located in the old student center, next to the post office. The new space was ceremoniously opened Thursday, Sept. 30 with a ribbon cutting and dedication by Dr. Lewis, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Dr. Gary Brown, Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon, and several student volunteers.
“I arrived in July 2018 after the food pantry was started by an anonymous donor,” said Vice Chancellor Brown. “Since that time, the pantry has served quite a few of our students. People have dedicated time and effort to the food pantry.
Vice Chancellor Brown said Dr. Jennifer Brown’s leadership in the creation and operation of the food pantry paved the way for the larger facility. Thanks to her leadership, a foundation for the future of the pantry was laid, he said.
“We are building upon the work that has already been done,” said Dr. Brown.
The work done and the work to be done benefits ECSU students who are in need of assistance. Vice Chancellor Brown said it is important to work with the “whole student,” keeping in mind that the student experience is much more than academic excellence.
“We need to meet their basic needs, too,” he said.
Dr. Lewis says the pantry will be staffed by student volunteers, a student NC Hunger Ambassador, and a role that was created during the fall 2020 semester, a case manager. The student ambassador is Paige Williams.
“Students are excited for the new food pantry,” said Ms. Williams. “It’s much bigger and its much more accessible.”
Ms. Williams’ role as ambassador has her working with the Food Lion Feeds Collegiate Hunger Challenge, an annual food drive competition. Universities across the state work to collect food for area food banks and pantries from September through December 10, and the school that collects the most food is awarded $10,000 to support its food pantry.
To help ECSU gain the top spot and receive the $10,000 award, look for the food drive bins across campus.
ECSU is a past winner of the Food Lion challenge, earning the top prize for the pantry. Last year, due to COVID-19 concerns, while the challenge was not in full swing, ECSU was awarded $1,000 for its efforts.
Food Lion is also a major partner in the current expansion of the Vikings Care Food Pantry. The supermarket chain donated $25,000 to ECSU to support the pantry expansion.
Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon, during the rededication ceremony, said the well-being of ECSU students is always the university’s number one focus.
“Our top priority,” said Chancellor Dixon, “is we want our students to love where they live and learn. Use the pantry and don’t sit and go without.”
Dr. Lewis said the pantry has designated Thursdays as donation day, when campus and community partners can donate food and personal hygiene items. The pantry will be open to students Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,
“The pantry will now also, in limited supply, offer personal hygiene and laundry items and toiletries students may need but are not able to get to a Walmart or drug store to purchase,” said Dr. Lewis.
Dr. Lewis said the pantry had reported an average of 60 to 75 students receiving items each month in past years. She said the hope is to see that number increase to 85 to 100 a month.
Aside from Ms. Williams, the pantry will be operated by students such as student volunteer leader Nalexia Brooks, Westry Thorpe, and MacArthur “BJ” Lynch. Social work major Chrislynn Mills will support the pantry by helping to develop a tracking mechanism and perform analysis on the data as a part of her internship with the Student Conduct and Community Standards office, said Dr. Lewis. For more information on the food pantry, go HERE.