CONWAY—A “serendipitous” connection between faculty and staff at the University of Central Arkansas has culminated in the creation of a food bank to serve students and employees. The grand opening for the “Bear Essentials Food Bank” is Wednesday, June 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 108, Old Main.
At least four different faculty and staff at UCA had the idea of opening a food pantry at varying times over the last 10 years. Brian James, instructor; Reessa Ramsahi, staff counselor; Marvin Williams, UCAN coordinator and academic advisor; and Melissa Shock, associate professor had all worked on plans to open a pantry.
“A few years ago, I wrote a proposal about a food pantry and gave it to administration,” explained Williams. He said he had been advising a student when the student told Williams how little she had eaten the last few days.
James worked with the CANstruction project in January that collected canned goods for a visual construction contest before donating the canned goods to local food pantries. “It came up during the CANstruction that UCA should have its own food pantry.”
James and Shock began working together before teaming up with Ramsahi and Williams.
“We had four different people sort of separately have the idea some for longer than others,” said James. “It was really serendipitous that all of us happened to catch wind of each other and team up.”
After the grand opening, the food pantry will be open each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment. Visitors to the pantry must complete a simple application in person or online to receive a modest supply of nonperishable items such as canned vegetables, soup, and peanut butter.
Donations are accepted anytime, as the food bank will depend on donations to maintain operation. “We are trying to fill a need that is not being filled in the community,” James said.
UCA is among at least 25 universities across the country that have opened food pantries including two in Arkansas, Pulaski Technical College and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.