WHITE HALL – Jayson Murg takes classes at Pierpont Community and Technical College Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays alongside working his full-time job.
This packed schedule makes it difficult for him to have a good meal during the short amount of down time he has.
“I work for the Department of Highways and I’m traveling a lot,” Murg said. “It’s not easy for me to really have time to create a meal at home, drag it with me wherever I’m going and have it exactly palatable when I get to the location.”
However, while he is enrolled in the process technology power systems program at Pierpont Community and Technical College, Murg has a place to get food on campus through the Pierpont Pride Food Pantry. On Tuesday, the food pantry celebrated its first year in operation with a luncheon for students and faculty to enjoy.
“We are celebrating the anniversary of helping our students and all the services that we have for them today,” said Jillian Sole, financial aid counselor at Pierpont. “The pantry is run 100 percent on donations; it is on average $500 to $600 a week to maintain the pantry.”
Sole helped start the Pierpont Pride Food Pantry at the Advanced Technology Center last year after seeing students were in need of food while on campus. Because Pierpont serves a number of non-traditional students, she said the need was obvious because many of them, like Murg, didn’t really have the money or even the time to get food between classes.
“Our students, once they’re here at school, they don’t always have the means to leave the campus to go get something to eat,” Sole said. “Knowing that they could go to the pantry, they can get a breakfast, a lunch, we were blessed that we were donated a freezer for us... so we’re able to do a lot more for them.”
In her job working at the front desk of the Advanced Technology Center, Sole said, students would often discuss being hungry with her.
“We have students that are of the older generation that have their own families, that aren’t working because they’re going to school,” Sole said. “They’re able to go to the pantry and get what they need and take it home... literally all they need to do is either email, call me, stop me in the hall and say ‘Hey, we need some help,’ and I will do everything I can to help them.”
The pantry is supported by donations and help from LIFE United Methodist Church. The food pantry is meant to be a more affordable option to students in the state.
“It’s quite simple – you cannot study if you’re hungry,” said Pierpont President Johnny Moore. “You cannot be successful in college if you’re worrying about where your next meal is going to come from, so we’re taking that off the table.”
With cabinets full of granola bars, chips, fruits and pretzels as well as a new freezer full of microwaveable meals, Sole said the food pantry has grown to a point much bigger than she expected, especially after seeing the results of a survey conducted last semester.
“I did a survey at the end of last semester and we have helped on average daily 50 to 60 students,” Sole said. “It’s a lot bigger than we ever imagined it to be and we never thought we would be where we are today.”
To Moore, this result is surprising as well, but somewhat expected, seeing that the problem of student hunger exists all over the country. However, the support of the community is always welcomed.
“This is not an issue that is just here in Pierpont or just other schools in West Virginia, it’s a nationwide problem,” Moore said. “These are issues that we’re trying to help our students. All the food, this is all donations. This is the community stepping up to help our students succeed.”
Murg, who was present at the anniversary event Tuesday, said he uses the pantry a few times a week, whether it’s just to get a granola bar or other small snack to hold him over throughout the day. While life happens, he doesn’t have to worry about being hungry.
“Even a small granola bar is just helpful to knock off the edge of being hungry,” Murg said. “There have been times in between life, and life does happen, to help get by a little bit through other people is insanely helpful.”
Sole said the motive that drives her efforts in maintaining the food pantry is literally the mom in her. Not wanting to see anyone have to be hungry, she started the pantry to help, and Tuesday, she felt that love returned through those who benefit from the food.
“I don’t do this for the recognition of me,” Sole said. “I have two kids of my own and thankfully they’ve never had to go hungry and I pray they never had to. We’ve been fortunate but not everybody is and that’s why I do this.”
For information on the Pierpont Pride Food Pantry, or to make a donation, contact Sole at Jilliansole@pierpont.edu.