Positively the Heartland: Maverick Food Pantry helps staff, students in need

Posted at 6:30 AM, Jun 03, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry or worried about where your next meal will come from.

According to a survey by Chegg, 35% of college students said hunger has impacted their ability to study at some point.

“I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have family really, so being able to walk from the dorms to this building — it saved me worrying about how to get to Walmart or a grocery store and it provided me with basic things,” said student Jenika Jennings.

Tucked inside a room at the University of Nebraska-Omaha's Community Engagement Center is the Maverick Food Pantry — a resource that’s made all the difference for staff and students like Jennings.

“I know one of my favorite meals was mac and cheese, corn, and chicken, you know," said Jennings.

“It can be really hard for students and I think for staff, too, in academia, right? Like, we all don’t get paid that much," said UNO staff Erin Painter.

Painter said the pantry has been especially helpful during the pandemic.

“My partner has been in and out of income and it just kind of helps take a little bit of that pressure off,” said Painter.

The pantry focuses on providing a healthy, balanced assortment of food along with personal hygiene products.

Students and staff can sign up online to receive items and it’s all confidential.

Each week, they have anywhere between 20 to 40 bags filled and each user can get two bags a week.

“A lot of our users — their needs are different. So there’s this scale of food insecurity and not a lot of people think about that,” said Madeline St. Clair, the pantry's coordinator.

One of her favorite memories working there involves an international student who was able to try something new.

“One day I was like, do you want this cereal, and it was Reese's Puffs. He was like 'Oh, I’ll try it. He was kind of like, 'Oh, American food.' Tried it, came back the next week and was like, 'I found my new favorite food,'” St. Clair said.

St. Clair believes the pantry is a resource on campus that nobody should be ashamed of using.

“We’re here, you know. No need is too small or too large for us,” St. Clair said.

The Maverick Food Pantry doesn’t only serve UNO's campus. Staff, students and faculty with UNMC, College of Saint Mary and students associated with Avenue Scholars can sign up to pick up a package.

The pantry relies partly on donations. See more information here.

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