"The university wants us to prove the need of the pantry first," said Missouri's food bank director Paul Haluszczak, a St. Peters junior.
Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri, said more people are using food pantries generally. She said her regional group serves nearly 13,000 people each month, compared with fewer than 8,000 just four years ago — a 63 percent increase.
Kilpatrick was among the early skeptics of the student effort, though now she's an ally, with the regional group providing help to the Tiger Pantry
"I didn't want it to be a novelty, then when these students graduate, who carries it on?" she said. "I was putting up roadblocks, making sure it was legit."
Kaitlyn Kelly, a senior animal science major from Blue Springs, has used the Tiger Pantry from the start. So does her boyfriend. Kelly has cashed childhood savings bonds and other investments to help pay for college. She also has wheat allergies, making her food choices more difficult and more costly.
"I can't just go out and buy a box of ramen noodles," she said. "Eating for me is pretty hard, and expensive."
Kelly said she isn't ashamed or embarrassed about seeking help, but she realizes some of her peers might consider relying on the pantry a stigma. That's why the Tiger Pantry, like its counterparts on other campuses, is located off-the-beaten track and provides its groceries in generic, unlabeled shopping bags.
"I need help. So I'm not going to refuse it," she said. "There are plenty of students who could use this. This whole program is a godsend."
Tiger Pantry, www.tigerpantry.missouri.edu
Auburn University War on Hunger: www.auburn.edu/hunger
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier