By Simone Augustus & Nykhya Gardiner
The University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) has taken a remarkable step towards addressing food insecurity among its students with the official opening of the “Food for Thought” pantry at the Ladies Residence Hall (LRH). This initiative, a key part of USC’s Food Sufficiency Program, is set to make a profound difference in the lives of students, especially those facing financial hardships. The pantry project was made possible through the generosity of donors, including Chosen 300 Ministries led by Pastor Brian Jenkins and Dr. Sharon Forde-Atikossie, Pastor, and CEO of The Sharing of Bread International Outreach Ministry, a US-based non-profit organization.
The pantry’s establishment comes with a clear mission – to support the students of the Ladies Residence Hall, with a particular focus on those facing economic challenges. A select committee, comprising five individuals including the Ladies’ Club President, the Residence Hall Dean, and three other named individuals, has been appointed to oversee the pantry’s management, disbursement, and inventory. The pantry is scheduled to open every two weeks, ensuring a regular supply of essential items to students in need.
The “Food for Thought” pantry was launched on January 15, 2023, as part of a week of activities designed to engage and uplift the student community. An integral component of the launch included a Women Enrichment Seminar, featuring a presentation by Dr. Forde-Atikossie.
While the “Food for Thought” pantry is now a reality, the vision behind it began to take shape long before its official launch. Jamila February, who served as the Ladies Club President from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, played a pivotal role in bringing this initiative to life. Her determination to address the needs of LRH Residents, who often found themselves struggling due to financial constraints, was the driving force behind the project. Jamila recalled her early inspiration, saying, “As I was at USC prior to the [Covid-19] pandemic, I heard that the school never had a pantry, and students would complain of a lack of money, therefore they would be limited on stuff to eat.”
Determined to serve her fellow residents and fulfill her role as a leader, Jamila embarked on a quest to find donors who could help stock the pantry. Her dedication to the cause was unshakable, and her efforts did not go unnoticed.
The pantry’s meaningful name, “Food for Thought,” was suggested by one of its primary donors, Dr. Sharon Forde-Atikossie. Jamila explained, “It’s more than just food; it has a purpose,” emphasizing the broader mission of the pantry.
The journey to establish the pantry was not without its challenges. Jamila and the team encountered obstacles, including customs delays, that could have deterred their progress. However, their unwavering determination, coupled with the belief in a higher purpose, enabled them to overcome these hurdles.
Chosen 300 Ministries and The Sharing of Bread International Outreach Ministry made substantial contributions to the pantry, including a diverse range of items. Their donations encompassed ready-made or easy-to-cook foods, such as macaroni and cheese and various canned items. Recognizing the unique needs of female residents, the ministry also generously provided essential sanitary items and pads.
The students of the Ladies Residence Hall warmly received the “Food for Thought” pantry, appreciating the caring and compassionate gesture. It has not only addressed immediate food needs but also conveyed a powerful message of support and unity within the USC community.
USC commends the dedication of Jamila February, the generous donors, and all those involved in this endeavor for their commitment to serving the student community and upholding the values of compassion and empathy. The “Food for Thought” pantry is more than just a source of nourishment; it symbolizes the care and solidarity that define the University of the Southern Caribbean.