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ASU food pantry provides for students in need

A recent study estimates 22 percent of U.S. college students are food insecure.
Donate to Pitchfork Pantry on Feb. 14 at Hayden Lawn or Taylor Place Mall.
January 27, 2017

Sun Devil students join forces to help classmates who can't afford to eat properly; studies show huge need for the service

Freshman year at ASU, Stephanie Kaufmann watched a friend who couldn’t afford to eat leave school. 

The friend, who worked multiple jobs on top of a full-time school schedule to make ends meet, dropped out because “she just couldn’t muster up the energy anymore to keep going.” Kaufmann, now a senior majoring in drawing and art history, said. “At one point, I was sharing my meal plan with her. And even then, it just wasn’t enough.”

Moved to action, Kaufmann began pushing for a food pantry on campus to provide for students in need. After months of planning and help from fellow students and faculty, Pitchfork Pantry launched this month with locations on ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses. 

“It’s been amazing how much the community has come together,” Kaufmann said in reference to the food drives and volunteer hours that helped make the pantry possible. “When you’re trying to pursue your education, the last thing you need to worry about is being hungry.”

A recent study put the number of college students in the U.S. who are food insecure — lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food — at 22 percent. College of Health Solutions assistant professor Meg Bruening conducted her own study of ASU freshmen living in residence halls in 2016 and found that among that specific group, the number was closer to 35 percent.

Considering those students are required to purchase a meal plan, that may be surprising to some. However, as Kaufmann explained, the plans aren’t always adequate. For example, students can buy plans that provide only one meal a day.

Bruening’s study also found that food insecurity is associated with unhealthy eating habits and increased rates of depression and anxiety.

“So there are some pretty intense consequences of food insecurity,” said Bruening.

At the same time Bruening was finishing up her study and working on getting a food pantry at ASU’s Downtown campus, she heard of Kaufmann’s charge to do the same in Tempe. The two joined forces, and Pitchfork Pantry was born.

Bruening helped secure funding with an ASU sustainability grant, allowing for the purchase of refrigerators so the pantries can soon provide dairy and produce in addition to pre-packaged food like soup, pasta and peanut butter. Freezers will be added as well, to store food gleanedIn relation to food, gleaning refers to collecting that is leftover and would otherwise go to waste. from local sources, including restaurants and other food banksPitchfork Pantry is working out agreements to glean from both United Food Bank and Starbucks..

Bruening also introduced Kaufmann to junior nutrition major Rebecca Bender, who had helped Bruening with her study and had a related interest in reducing food waste.

“The amount of food we waste in the U.S. is mind-boggling,” Bender said. “It makes me very frustrated.”

So Kaufmann and Bender combined their shared interests in the form of the Student Anti-Hunger Coalition, which oversees efforts behind Pitchfork Pantry, as well as emerging initiatives including a university composting program in conjunction with ASU Zero Waste, and the Campus Kitchens Project, which recovers food from cafeterias and dining halls that would otherwise be thrown away and repurposes it into new meals.

The coalition has about 15 members, all of whom share responsibilities that include working shifts at the pantries, picking up and delivering food, and organizing food drives.

“The coolest thing about the coalition is that every member is a leader in another student organization,” said Bruening, who serves as the coalition’s faculty adviser. “So they can go back to those groups and help mobilize the larger student body.”

As for Pitchfork Pantry, it’s a work in progress, but Bruening said they plan to eventually have a location on every campus. She stressed that the existing pantries are, however, open to all ASU students, regardless of their academic year or which campus they attend — all they need is an ASU student ID.

Of the students who have already visited the pantry, Kaufmann said the general reaction has been overwhelming enthusiasm, with some relieved to have a source of food if they run out funds for the dining halls, and others who are looking forward to donating their surplus.

The next food drive will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, at Hayden Lawn on the Tempe campus and at Taylor Place Mall on the Downtown campus. Visit the Pitchfork Pantry Facebook page for updates and changes.

Pitchfork Pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays on the Tempe campus at ASU Health Services (South) Sonora Center, and from 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays on the Downtown campus at the Taylor Place Demo Kitchen.

Pitchfork Pantry flier

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11,500 ASU freshmen set to receive training in art of civil communications.
Sun Devil Civility plans to expand from incoming freshmen to other groups.
January 27, 2017

University initiative aims to promote communication skills, finding common ground through peer-to-peer training

In a time of heated rhetoric and fraying decorum, Arizona State University is planning to train incoming freshmen in the art of civility.

Nearly 11,500 new students will take a three-hour workshop called “The Art of Inclusive Communication” next fall, with the hope that they begin their college careers with the skills to find common ground with one another.  

The Office of Student and Cultural Engagement has been piloting a workshop with students, faculty and staff for more than a year and has hired 32 student facilitators, who will train 1,400 students this spring, according to Mark Sanders, senior coordinator of the office, which is part of Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU.

“The underlying goal is to celebrate and recognize differences and to get people to learn from each other and advance the idea of inclusion and access — all of those great things the ASU charterThe ASU charter: ASU is a comprehensive public university that is measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuring fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health our the communities it serves. is about,” he said.

Emily Kwon said she learned how to talk through emotionally charged conversations at the workshop.

“The art of communication is an undervalued art. People need to realize that the way you say it really does matter,” she said. “Especially with recent events, opinions are heated and people won’t listen to each other because of the high-impact emotions.

“So we learned that people have different opinions, and that’s OK. And it’s important to discuss it in a productive manner and how to move on,” said Kwon, a senior majoring in biological sciences.

The peer-to-peer training will be key in working with the incoming freshmen next fall.

“It’s not about ‘let’s come in and preach at you about civility,’ ” Sanders said. “They’ll talk about identity and unconscious bias, and students say, ‘I never thought about it that way before.’ And freshmen have the attitude of, ‘OK, teach me some cool things.’ ” 

Besides practical skills for managing conflict, workshop participants learn about their own values and communication style.

The idea for encouraging civility started about two years ago, when leaders at ASU noticed some issues on campus and decided to partner with the National Center for Conflict ResolutionNCRC was founded in 1983 by the University of San Diego Law Center and the San Diego County Bar Association., a San Diego-based nonprofit organization.

“We had free speech visitors coming in and yelling at people, and people were not responding in the best way,” Sanders said of the confrontations that occurred between proselytizers and students.

The National Center for Conflict Resolution partners with other universities, but ASU’s university-wide initiative is unique. First-time freshmen at the Tempe, Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses will get the training within the first eight weeks of the fall semester. Eventually, other groups will get the opportunity, including transfer, graduate, international and online students.

The Student and Cultural Engagement office offers other workshops that promote communication and respect, including “Navigating the Rainbow of Inclusion,” “Interfaith Identities: Learning and Conversation,” “Different Faces, Same Spaces: Diversifying Cross-Cultural Dialogue and Interactions” and “Global Allies Training.”

All of that will be gathered under one umbrella called Sun Devil Civility.

“The hope is that this serves as the basic platform, and it launches from there,” he said. “How do you engage with your peers? How do you move forward in the cycle of life at ASU? And what can you do to create civility and a sense of community in the citizenry of ASU, Arizona, the U.S. and the globe?”

Fasha Johari, the president of ASU’s Coalition of International Students, is a Muslim student from Malaysia. She said the tips she learned in the workshop have helped her with some uncomfortable situations.

“It’s helped me to not engage with people who want to provoke,” she said. “They want that kind of reaction so they can say, ‘This person is aggressive.’ ”

A senior majoring in biological sciences, Johari said ASU has improved in the four years she has been here.

“I really think ASU is moving forward to include all of us. They really help a lot in terms of making this a second home for us.”

Sanders said the goal of Sun Devil Civility is that students can complete several of the workshops and acquire a certificate in civility training.

“I have this vivid image that 20 years from now, these students will be our senators and representatives who say, ‘In college I learned how to have a conversation with you.’ And, ‘We disagree, but we can make this about the global good.’ ”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News