What started as an effort by a small group of students has turned into a veritable force of good deeds. In the four years of its operation, Tiger Pantry has distributed 120,000 pounds of food to needy members of the MU community.
“It has just been really remarkable to see the strides made, going from what felt like a tiny closet with mostly-bare shelves to now regularly bringing in full shelves,” said marketing co-coordinator Claire Salzman, who has been involved in the organization for two years. “When I first started in November, we had a big Thanksgiving drive and then the shelves were empty within a month or so. Now, it’s a disaster if our shelves are ever empty, and it’s really unusual that they are, because we have such a constant supply of food coming in.”
The organization, which is student-run, is an auxiliary of the Missouri Students Association and Graduate Professional Council. It is a subsidiary of the The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. Tiger Pantry was created in the image of a similar organization called the Full Circle Food Pantry, a student-run food pantry based out of the University of Arkansas.
“I really wanted to volunteer in college,” said Tiger Pantry director Grace Gabel, who has been involved in the organization for three years. “There’s a lot of ways you can do that, but a lot of them, you’re not really hands on with it. I didn’t want to just join a sorority and donate the philanthropy money. I wanted to do it. This has given me the opportunity to tangibly volunteer with my peers.”
Tiger Pantry serves anyone and everyone with an MU ID, from students to faculty and staff. New clients can apply for assistance by filling out the “New Client Form” on the Tiger Pantry OrgSync page. The entire process is entirely confidential. Clients can pick up produce once a week, and a larger supply of groceries once a month.
“For me, what’s been really really impactful is being able to see that I am part of an organization that directly impacts the world that I live in,” Salzman said. “Often times, when you get into service work, it feels very top down, like I am helping all these people that are beneath me. Whereas with Tiger Pantry, I am serving my community and I am just giving back and connected to the people that I serve. These are my professors [and] staff members that are making sure that I am happy and safe and taken care of on this campus. These are classmates a lot of times, and TAs.”
Applications to volunteer open on a semesterly basis, and applications for executive positions open every fall.
In addition, students can get involved without directly volunteering with the organization.
“If you’re part of an organization, encourage them to host a food drive to benefit Tiger Pantry or request an informational presentation from Tiger Pantry,” Salzman said. “It’s a really really wonderful resource and wonderful organization made up of some of the most wonderful people in the entire world who just do this. The Tiger Pantry team is just a very selfless organization.”
Edited by Katherine White | firstname.lastname@example.org