Helping students, faculty and staff is the mission of The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Gulf Park Pantry, where various items are requested weekly from those in need.
Heather Miller, director of Academic Financial Affairs at Gulf Park, helped start the pantry in 2017. At that time, she frequently encountered coastal students request items from the Eagle’s Nest in Hattiesburg. This growing need sparked an idea to create a pantry on the coast.
“It’s important that students, faculty and staff know it’s [the pantry] there for them,” said Miller. “There’s no reason to be ashamed for accepting its services. It’s a safe space where people can come in and get what they need.”
The pantry is home to such items as canned chicken, beans, and oatmeal, among many others. Pre-packed bags of different foods and hygiene items are available for pickup at the pantry website. Special requests can be made based on allergy issues and household size. When an immediate need arises, Miller and other staff members can meet with the recipient at a location to drop off their items.
Kristen Chachati, a USM graduate student, helps with restocking and organizing the pantry. She said many students using the pantry are at Stennis Space Center, carpooling and arriving in groups to Gulf Park to get what they need.
Chachati requests a variety of items to fill the pantry’s shelves so those coming into the pantry can have options to choose from. One of the most highly requested needs is for cleaning products, she said.
“These items run out quickly,” Chachati explained, “and keeping variety in the pantry is a challenge. We don’t want students receiving the same items every time they come in.”
Current pantry needs include:
- Canned chicken
- Granola bars
- Gluten-free items
- Canned vegetables
- Peanut butter and jams
Household items that are needed include:
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Laundry detergent
- Feminine products
- Hand sanitizer
Chachati is grateful for the opportunity to fill the needs of USM coastal students, faculty and staff, and urges everyone to utilize its benefits. She also encourages the community to donate items to the pantry through their Amazon and WalmartWish List.
“People need to know about the pantry,” she said. “If the resources within the pantry are not used, it goes to waste.”
Those in need of items can fill out an online form. The spring semester hours for the pantry are Tuesday 9:30-2:30, Wednesday 9:30-3:30 and Thursday 9:30-2:30. Contact the Gulf Park Pantry at 228.214.3341.
(Contributed to by Gabriela Shinskie)