During the holidays and throughout the year, many struggle with food insecurity. The numbers in North Carolina are staggering: an estimated 604,000 North Carolina households don’t have enough to eat, ranking North Carolina as the tenth hungriest state in the nation. Approximately one in five children face hunger on a regular basis, and over 15 percent – or seven county service areas – are challenged by food insecurity. Yes, even college students are impacted.
William Peace University’s Wellness Center team knows food insecurity is a reality for some students, and, in response, established the Pacer Pantry as a way to provide support. The Pacer Pantry is available to all enrolled traditional undergraduate students as a place to access free groceries and personal care items. The pantry not only caters to students’ physical needs, but aims to reduce the negative effects of food insecurities on mental health.
Wellness Center Director Nicole Davis, LCMHS, and her team help students find the value in wellness and provide quality services to match. The Pacer Pantry is more than a service—it is a passion.
“We established the Pacer Pantry because we saw a real need in our student population for such a service,” Davis said. “No student should be having to worry about their next meal along with passing their classes and enjoying their WPU experience. We saw this as a way to help bridge that gap.”
For University Nurse Jill Gattone, RN, M.Ed., the Pacer Pantry provides an opportunity to give back. As a Thanksgiving tradition, her family participates in a ‘fun philanthropic’ activity that provides a way to celebrate their blessings. This year was no different, and together they cleaned, organized and restocked the shelves of the Pacer Pantry.
“It is such an honor to work at WPU,” Gattone said. “I have seen firsthand what an amazing difference our Pacer Pantry makes in the lives of our students.”
That is why, despite the precautions needed during the pandemic, she and her family chose the Pacer Pantry as their annual family project. She said that the faculty and staff of WPU have given generously to support the pantry and students in need, making it an easy choice.
“We’re like a family here at Peace; everyone truly cares about the students,” she said. “Now more than ever, food pantries need our support and our help. No student should ever go hungry.”
Donations of non-perishable food and new toiletry items can be dropped off at the Wellness Center, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A donation bin is located on the porch of the Joyner House (building name of the Wellness Ctr offices). If you are interested in dropping off a large donation, please email HealthServices@peace.edu. Financial support can be made by contacting Advancement@peace.edu or online gifts can be made at peace.edu/give (designation: Pacer Pantry).
WPU students can request items from the pantry by completing this form, which is typically filled within 24-hours. The Wellness center encourages students who are in need of items such as bread, produce, and meats to visit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which is in close proximity to campus.