The Vanguard Tries: Volunteering at JagPantry

Article and photo by: Stephanie Huynh | Contributor | smh2026@jagmail.southalabama.edu

Food insecurity is a known issue on university campuses across the nation. According to a survey conducted by The Hope Center, around 29% of respondents who attended a four-year university experienced food insecurity.

Unfortunately, it’s common for college students to skip meals in order to save money. South Alabama’s on-campus food pantry, JagPantry, is located in the Veterans Affairs office of the Academic Services Center. It was established by South’s Donor to Diner organization, and it’s a student-run pantry that aims to combat hunger.

Being a student-run pantry means that JagPantry relies on volunteers to keep it organized. Because food insecurity is a problem that affected my peers back at home, I was moved to search for a way to focus on it here as well.

The JagPantry is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5p.m. Students are invited to take whatever they may need. Volunteers are asked to come in every Tuesday, so I signed up for an afternoon shift on March 15 via South Serves. I was the first person to show up for that shift, and though I had a general idea of what to do, I was still a bit lost. 

Everything was labeled and there weren’t any new donations to organize, but it was an overwhelming space to walk into. Cans were stacked high on shelves and the boxes of donations were daunting. The only thing I could think of to do was turn on light music and check if any cans of tuna were expired. The people who volunteered before did a good job though – none were!

About 10 minutes passed before Molly, a senior information systems major, came to help out. A few minutes later, Antony, a junior computer engineering major, walked in to help too. Antony was a regular volunteer, and he instructed Molly and I to focus on taking inventory. For the next hour and a half, we talked a bit about our lives while trying not to forget the number of cans that we had already counted. It was a truly rewarding experience and a great way to spend a couple of free hours of my day. I recommend picking up a shift if you ever get a chance!

If you’re looking for another reason to volunteer, USA’s Office of Community Engagement is currently hosting Semester of Service 2022. They say that it’s “an initiative focused on getting Jags back out into the community doing in-person service,” and all students have to do is sign up for and participate in at least 3 service projects that are listed on South Serves. At the end of the semester, participants will be invited to a recognition event with food, games, and other treats.

Furthermore, if you or your organization is interested in hosting a food drive for JagPantry or you have any questions about the JagPantry services, reach out to their email for more information.