Overnight brings light to a nation-wide issue


Jacob Thomas photo

Students sleep outside overnight in the West Lawn in tents to promote Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.


The student organization Pioneer Pantry hosted an overnight event to raise awareness for college students and others that struggle to have enough for food and don’t have a place to stay. On Nov. 16, members from the organization offered students s’mores and information about the issue that the United States faces across college campuses.

“We decided to do this event because last year when we were still looking for a place and there wasn’t much for us to do, we decided to think up of events that we wanted to eventually put on. We heard about Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and thought that was a great time to try to teach our peers about what’s happening. My team wanted to do something more extreme than just a normal presentation so we figured it would capture people’s attention but still be fun and inviting to have us camp out and roast some marshmallows,” junior environmental engineering major and Pioneer Pantry president Haley Jahnel said.

Members started the event at 12 p.m. by setting up the tents that members planned to stay in overnight. The members returned before 4 p.m. to begin building the fire, the main attraction to bring in visitors. Pioneer Pantry encouraged others to come by and visit even if they didn’t have any food to donate.

“We kept the fire going until around midnight. We then settled into our tents and went to sleep. We had a lot of people stop and we even had people who couldn’t stop but were interested in our signs. We chose a great location because there were lots of people going to dinner at the PSC so we got to see them on their way back. If I had to say a number it would probably be around 50 but there were periods of time where I wasn’t there so it could have been closer to 100,” Jahnel said.

“Sleep-Out for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness” was put on to raise awareness for a wider issue. This year, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week lasted from Nov. 11 through Nov. 19. The organization put up several signs that listed statistics of how big of an impact hunger and homelessness affects young adults. One sign read, “One in five students are in poverty.”

“I was not too surprised by the facts because we did know initially this was a problem on campus and is actually what helped us push to get the pantry started. The only facts that did surprise me was when we were able to look over all of the data about the users of the pantry since it has had its grand opening in March! Week one we started with roughly 14 people and are now up to about 100 people that will come and visit the pantry! I was blown away by the number of people we have been able to positively impact thus far and how much that number has grown since March,” junior civil engineering major and public relations officer Susan Jordan said.

The issue of hunger on our campus is supported by faculty members Valerie Wetzel and Jacklyn Esqueda. With this support, members of Pioneer Pantry opened Pioneer Provisions, the campus food pantry in Glenview Commons, in March 2017.

“During our event, there was some talk about making this an annual event. We also did a food drive at the end of the year last year, and we plan on doing that again next semester. For that event, we will most likely stick with our Star Wars theme as an event title. As far as other drives and events, we are not quite sure. That will be a discussion at future meetings. The ones I just listed above will also be discussed further as we reflect on this event. Lastly, we continuously have donation bins in Doudna Hall, the Markee Pioneer Student Center across from the information desk, and Ullsvik Hall. We will most likely work on finding places or signs for other donation locations in the future as well,” junior elementary education major and historian Megan Ferrell said.

Pioneer Pantry has also received support from Second Harvest and Walmart. Members of the organization said that Pioneer Provisions receives around 600 pounds of food per week that consists of a little bit of everything. With the Pioneer Provisions still in its inaugural year, the food pantry has provided food for 221 unique users and over 500 visits from students.