Wright State Friendship Food Pantry gets into the holiday spirit

Wright State students help to stock the Friendship Food Pantry on campus.

The Thanksgiving meal program was specifically aimed at students with children, who were contacted by email and when they made visits to the food pantry.

Thirteen students in need will be able to provide their families with a full Thanksgiving meal, including cranberry sauce, potatoes, and turkey, thanks to the Wright State University Friendship Food Pantry.

Once Turkey Day has passed, the food pantry will turn to its new holiday fundraiser, asking donors to give the Gift of Hope.

The Thanksgiving meal program was specifically aimed at students with children, who were contacted by email and when they made visits to the food pantry. Those who signed up took home food to create a festive and wholesome Thanksgiving dinner for their families, without worrying about the cost.

Because the food pantry is run by the Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement, organizers enlisted the help of a service learning English 101 class to fundraise and collect food. Students created a list of items needed to create bags full of Thanksgiving meals, distributed fliers on campus, and collected goods and money from different departments and offices.

The monetary donations were especially helpful, said Rebecca Fensler, the poverty programs coordinator at Wright State.

“That was what allowed us to buy turkeys and other perishable items like whipped cream and butter,” Fensler said.

Other campus fundraisers and food drives took place outside the Hangar, in the Union Market, and in residence halls. Some students approached area churches for donations.

But fundraisers like this only come once every so often.

In the hope of creating something more regular, Fensler has created the Gift of Hope program, an annual drive in which the food pantry offers donors the chance to give the Gift of Hope to students in need. When a donor chooses to give, a card of thanks will be sent to the recipient of their choice, such as a colleague, friend or loved one.

Fensler said that currently the food pantry is sustained by donations of food. But while non-perishables are helpful, often the food pantry ends up with too much of one type of food and not enough of another.

“We get a ton of soup and a ton of canned vegetables that limit our storage space for things we actually need,” such as pasta and peanut butter, she said. Donated funds allow them to keep a variety of food in stock, including perishables like fresh vegetables and meat.

Funds also pay for the training food pantry volunteers receive, as well as the costs associated with the food bank’s designation as a Benefit Bank. Being a Benefit Bank means that the food pantry can help apply for assistance programs such as food stamps and utility assistance.

In the future, Fensler said, she hopes that the Friendship Food Pantry can become a member of The Foodbank, a warehouse that serves food pantries in Montgomery and Greene counties.

“Being a member of The Foodbank will allow us to have some sustainability,” Fensler said. The Foodbank can donate items when the pantry is running low. But membership is not free, and Fensler is hoping to defray the cost with fundraisers such as the Gift of Hope program.

Gift of Hope forms are available in the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. Donors can also call Rebecca Fensler to make their pledge, at (937) 775-2082.

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