Engineering student group leaders Jeremiah Wimer (left) and Shirley Vega (right) led a project to install a mini pantry at Bell Engineering Center 3008.
When will a peanut butter sandwich be more than just a sandwich? Stay hungry all day in class or maintain the energy and focus you need to take longer, more advanced courses and labs The difference is
The home of many U of A engineering students is the student lounge. This was especially true as students returned to campus after COVID-19 restrictions were eased. At one of her lounges, Bell Engineering 3008, Jonesboro Sr. Shirley Vega, president of her group at the IEEE Women in Engineering Affinity, said that not all students have the same resources when it comes to food and diet. I noticed
“The university encouraged people to be in the student lounge, to work and study together,” Vega said. It’s not possible.”
In addition to the stress commonly felt during the semester, Vega realized that food insecurity can be a significant stressor for some students.
“Food insecurity was bigger than I expected. I knew there was a need, but I didn’t see it every day,” Vega said.
Vega contacted Jeremiah Wimer, president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society, to collaborate on the solution. Wimer, a senior electrical engineering major at Fayetteville, described the challenges students face as they progress through their studies.
“When you become a junior or senior, you find yourself facing a series of classes and labs that can last throughout the day,” Weimer said. “You don’t want to go hungry all the time.”
With this in mind, Vega came up with the idea of providing food sources and other basic needs for students. I was thinking
With help from the university’s Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry, Vega and Wimer put their plans into action. Shelving units were installed in the lounge, stocked with canned pasta and soup, ramen packs, and of course non-perishable foods such as peanut butter and jelly. We have it in stock.
For Vega, easy and discreet access to items in the pantry was important, and the student lounge was the perfect place. Vega, Wimmer, and others put up posters, posted on social media, and used classroom word-of-mouth to get their message across about Mini-Her Pantry. There was an immediate response. Most of the food stocked in the mini pantry comes from the university food pantry and is restocked every Friday. There was also a direct donation to the mini pantry.
Food insecurity is a sensitive issue, so students can use QR codes to privately and discreetly request specific items from the university pantry. These items can be picked up at the Food Pantry or delivered to the Bell Engineering Center 3008 Mini Pantry upon scheduled restock.
Wimer cites Vega as the driving force behind the project, but Vega is quick to acknowledge that both Wimer and the university’s food pantry worked together.
“This was not a one-man project,” says Vega. “A lot of people are working to make sure it works as it’s supposed to.”
As a graduating senior, Vega hopes future students will follow up on this project and keep the mini pantry going. As a non-traditional student returning to college after more than a decade, Vega is acutely aware of how stressful college can be.
“If I could take one worry away, I’d do it,” Vega said.
Peanut butter and jelly come to the rescue.