SGA president Nandish Dayal and SGA member Ryan Gott worked together to establish UAH's first food pantry.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (August 15, 2014) - Meeting the needs of students is the top priority for the Student Government Association (SGA) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). And now they're taking that mission one step further with the creation of an on-campus food pantry to provide non-perishable food items to UAH community members.
"Students routinely contact the SGA, the Financial Aid Office, and the Dean of Students Office for assistance when they do not have enough to make ends meet," says Nandish Dayal, two-term SGA president and a senior nursing major. "So if we can do some simple things to take care of each other, like this food pantry, then we can reduce their burden and make their college experience better."
Set to open with the start of the fall semester, the food pantry will be located in the Dean of Students Office in Charger Union. Dayal says that need will be determined on a case-by-case basis to prevent abuse and that confidentiality is assured. "We want it to be a safe environment where students can come for help," he says, adding that they can simply ask for assistance at the front desk and take what they need.
We want it to be a safe environment where students can come for help.
That ease of access is key; while the city already offers similar services, there are impediments to their use. "Many students do not know about them, or if they do, they don't have a way to get to them," he says. "There is also a degree of intimidation because students often have only temporary needs, and as a result, feel like they aren't deserving of the services in the county."
Dayal initially proposed the concept of a food pantry when he ran for his first term in office. But he credits fellow SGA member and sophomore aerospace engineering major Ryan Gott with getting it off the ground. "Ryan is modest but he is the true hero of this endeavor," he says. "Without his desire, this may have taken a whole lot longer to establish."
Now that it's on the cusp of opening, the focus is on keeping it running. "A critical component of all SGA and student initiatives is sustainability, and the food pantry is no different," says Dayal. To that end, Dr. Regina Hyatt, UAH's Dean of Students, has volunteered to act as the pantry's administrator. "Her involvement ensures the program will remain active after both Ryan and I earn our degrees."
But just as important to the pantry's longevity is donations. Thus far, says Dayal, "many departments, student organizations, and individuals have some forward to help stock our supplies." And as the semester gets underway, he hopes more will come in. "I consider everyone here at UAH a part of our family, and like a family, I am confident that we can pull together to meet every member's needs."
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