Tiger Pantry: Fighting the Hunger Crisis

A Responsible Scholar responds to hunger – starting at home.

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April 22nd, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

Are universities rarefied spheres of higher learning where people don’t suffer the same concerns as the rest of us? Hardly. After attending the Student Government Exchange at the University of Arkansas in January 2012, University of Missouri class of 2014 student Nick Droege discovered a full-fledged hunger crisis existing on college campuses that affected not only students but also employees and their families.

Among Droege’s findings in the Columbia, Mo., area last year: 15,000 students were on need-based aid, nearly 20 students had reported being homeless, more than 1,000 students had an expected family contribution of less than $1,000, and some staff members and graduate students were at or below the poverty level while supporting families.

In order to help, Droege thought up a homegrown solution. He began to talk to administrators, student organizations, departments and academic colleges within the university about setting up a volunteer-operated food bank. After he developed a business plan and proposal to get space for Tiger Pantry, named after the MU mascot, he selected pick-up sites on different parts of the campus and began picking a team for his project. Well over 200 people applied for 10 coordinator spots, and he now supervises a 30-person part-time volunteer staff, with more than 600 additional volunteers waging the local fight against poverty and hunger.

Within three weeks of opening in October 2012, Tiger Pantry registered over 300 clients and has continued to grow. Its success in collecting and distributing non-perishable goods has allowed the pantry to expand and provide local farm-grown fresh produce. But Tiger Pantry hasn’t just inspired volunteers; it has also prompted an academic movement toward responsibility. Internships are now offered for business students and economics and statistics majors. Additionally, agriculture students will be working Tiger Pantry’s new plot of land, while students from the service-learning program can volunteer for credit.

Tiger Pantry has simultaneously highlighted the problem of student hunger and brought together the campus community to help alleviate it. Liberty Mutual is proud to have granted Nick Droege one of the five $10,000 annual scholarships it awards to college undergrads from campuses around the country as part of its Responsible Scholars™ Scholarship program.

Each year, Liberty Mutual seeks out academically qualified, motivated students like Droege who are making a difference to receive scholarships, take part in alternative spring break projects, and work on community programs. As he has shown, it only takes one student to spark a movement, and Liberty Mutual actively seeks out these undergrads, to help them further their work.

Interested in Tiger Pantry? You can check out the organization’s work – and donate to the cause – on the Tiger Pantry website. Droege and his team also created a video essay to raise awareness about hunger around campus.

For more information about Liberty Mutual’s scholarship program, visit the Responsible Scholars website.