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‘Brain Food’ pantry opens at RSCC Oak Ridge campus

Ribbon cut during ceremony last week

Sue Byrne, third from right, cuts the ribbon for the new “Brain Food” pantry, located in Roane State’s Coffey/Mc- Nally Building in Oak Ridge. She is the assistant project manager for the First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge’s partnership to help stock the campus’s pantry. From left: Scott Niermann, executive director of the Roane State Foundation; Kristie Hopwood, agency relations coordinator for Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee; Kara Allen, an assistant manager of the Kroger Store in Oak Ridge; Melissa Eads, corporate affairs manager for the Kroger Nashville Division; Sue Byrne; Karen Brunner, vice president of Roane State Institutional Effectiveness and Research; and Roane State President Chris Whaley.
It’s a vexing, persistent problem nationally: food insecurity issues experienced by many college students. Roane State is again doing something about it.

That’s the message delivered by Dr. Chris Whaley, president of the community college, during the formal opening of the “Brain Food” Pantry on the college’s Oak Ridge campus.

Some 40 percent of college students nationwide “struggle with hunger,” Whaley told the crowd attending a ribbon-cutting in the former Anderson Grille in the campus’s Coffey/McNally Building.

Making sure students – and their families – have proper and adequate nutrition “is as much a part of student success as what happens in the classroom,” said Karen Brunner, the college’s vice president of institutional effectiveness and research.

It’s simply the right thing to do, she added, and helps students not have to worry about food.

Roane State is partnering with the First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge, which serves as the nonprofit agent to acquire a variety of nonperishable food items at cost from another nonprofit, the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, located in Maryville.

That 37-year-old charity serves 18 East Tennessee counties and provides 19 million pounds of food a year, said Kristie Hopwood, the food bank’s agency relations coordinator.

“We stand before you as a partner to help alleviate hunger,” said Sue Byrne, a member of the church who serves as assistant project manager for the effort.

“These are successful people experiencing a short-term financial crisis,” she said of students benefiting from the college’s food pantries.

The church donated $1,500 to help launch “Brain Food,” and the Kroger Foundation again contributed support, this time a $3,000 donation. The Kroger Foundation also helped fund the startup of the Roane County campus pantry.

A similar pantry is on the college’s Cumberland County campus, and Roane’s State’s other campuses have initiatives to address student nutritional needs.

Byrne said the “Brain Food” pantry had a soft opening in mid-October. Already, she said, 417 people have been reached with its services, including 117 children.

The pantry will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays once a month; from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursdays, said Sandy Vann, a Roane State administrative assistant overseeing the pantry.

Ready-made bags of food – enough for several meals – will be provided as take-home food for student meals and can include canned meat, spaghetti, vegetables and macaroni and cheese, Vann said.

The college also provides quick snacks for students in the “Brain Food” pantry from 8 until 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Members of Roane State staff have been giving donations of nonperishable, individually-packaged, single-serve food items to stock the snack bar.

Donations can be dropped off with Vann in Room A-104 of the Coffey/McNally Building; faculty secretary Mariella Akers in B-110; or with receptionist Gail Powers-Blanton at the front desk. Financial contributions for the pantry are being accepted by the Roane State Foundation. For more information, call 865-882-4507.

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Eligible adults may now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant.

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