In response to Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, the Gamecock Pantry held in-person events during the week of Nov. 8-12. In the past, the organization had social media campaigns.
Gamecock Pantry provides free food and toiletries to anyone in the community with a valid CarolinaCard and is primarily run by a board of students.
"I feel like one person being hungry is too many people, you know, and if we have the resources here at the University of South Carolina to help students who are experiencing food insecurity, we should do that every single time no matter what." Jabari Bodrick, the staff overseer of Gamecock Pantry, said.
On Monday, the pantry hosted a Great Food Race. The event had around 15 teams dressed as food to collect donations for the pantry. Teams ranged from sororities to staff from various USC offices.
"We raised donations, they've been raising them for about a week I guess, as teams, and then we brought them all to Davis Field and got to count and see everything come together, and we had well over 2,000 donations, which was fantastic." Emilie Brady, the Executive Director of the Executive Board at the Gamecock Pantry, said.
On Tuesday, CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank Erinn Rowe spoke to USC students about food insecurity and the operations of the food bank, which provides over 22.6 million meals yearly to food insecure South Carolinians.
"We don't need people hungry in South Carolina. And how we do that is going to take the community and it's going to take partnerships and collaboration and so the more we can get out and speak to it, the better this partnerships will be." Rowe said.
On Thursday, the pantry hosted a Food Insecurity Education Program to further explore the concept of food insecurity with USC students. This event had a lower attendance than was hoped for, but the pantry board is unfazed.
"I think next year we're going to do a lot more outreach for marketing and things like that, to kind of get even more engagement with our events and get more teams at the Great Food Race — and just kind of make more people aware of what's going on," Brady said.
In the 2020-2021 school year, there were 1,406 individual visits to the Gamecock Pantry, by 406 different students, according to Bodrick.
"We've seen a significant spike in needs with COVID," Brady said. "So kind of bringing awareness to that and letting students know that that is something that's available to them is super important."
Originally, the Gamecock Pantry had planned to do a Thanksgiving basket drive, but the idea morphed into a food drive with prizes from the USC Honors College, that wrapped up at the end of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
"We always encourage people to, as they're leaving for the semester, clear out their pantries and bring us anything, especially non perishables that are still good for shelf life. But we also see an increase in the amount of food items taken out of the pantry every week, as the holidays roll around," Brady said.
While the Food Insecurity Education Program Thursday has a lot of opportunities to grow, the organizers at the Gamecock Pantry are excited to continue hosting events for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in the future.
"This is the first year that we've ever really done anything like this, so there's always, you know, room for improvement and room to grow," Brady said.