Nutrition Student Program Receives University Awards for Service

Students in the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions are positively impacting communities near and far. Georgia State honors this impact by awarding the Department of Nutrition’s student-run Panther’s Pantry the 2016 Carl V. Patton President’s Award for Community Service and Social Justice: Outstanding Student Organization.

Students with food insecurity are welcomed at Panther’s Pantry, a food bank that is anonymous and free. It was founded one year ago, based on the business plan of former students in the nutrition department. Those students conducted a survey and found that 68 percent of students surveyed expressed a need for food. Panther Pantry filling ordersl 1

Barbara Hopkins, the faculty adviser, spearheaded the effort to gain university approval and garner the Panther’s Pantry location beneath the Urban Life building, in a retired printing room. A network of nutrition students runs the pantry.

“I became interested in helping because one of my fellow students shared with me that she had no food and no meal plan. Working at Panther’s Pantry, I am rewarded when I see students who received food have a visual change in their face and verbal confirmation that this service is making a difference,” said Diana Parker, one of the managers at Panther’s Pantry.

The pantry currently serves 30 to 40 students per month. Upon arrival, students only need to show their student identification, then they are asked to fill out a list of their food preferences. Items such as canned meats, canned vegetables and peanut butter are in high demand. Panther Pantry 2

The nutrition team faces challenges, including creating awareness so that students know this resource is available. Findi
ng donors is another challenge. Panther’s Pantry manager Barbara Leydecker points out that people assume students are ok, but that there is a wide spectrum of students on the Georgia State campus.

“It’s really hard to study for an exam if you haven’t eaten today,” said Leydecker. “I see students lighten up when they receive food at the pantry and that is the justification for what we’re doing. They keep coming in the door and still need us, so my take-away is that we have an obligation to help our community.”

Community service is at the heart of the Patton awards, which recognize students, student organizations, faculty, staff and community partners who are making significant contributions to the well-being of others.

In addition to the Panther Pantry Patton Award, the Department of Physical Therapy’s Community Practice in Nicaragua received the Outstanding University Program and one Lewis School health informatics student, Alexis Collier, received the George M. Sparks Award. The Sparks Award recognizes Georgia State’s unsung heroes.