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365-day challenge to feed Flyers

365-day challenge to feed Flyers

Michelle Tedford October 13, 2023

As a child, Deanna Arbuckle knew what it was like for a family to have to stretch their food. That’s one reason why the assistant director in the Office of Learning Resources has challenged herself to donate one item to the campus Food4Flyers student pantry for every day of 2023.

Deanna Arbuckle
UD staff member Deanna Arbuckle

At the dollar store, she’ll load her cart with salt and pepper shaker sets. When there’s a sale, Arbuckle buys a dozen bottles of cooking oil. Yes, she’ll pick up boxes of the healthy cereal, but she’ll also grab Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles to donate. “Healthy stuff is important, but sometimes you just want a bag of cookies,” she said.

When the pantry sends out a list of urgently needed items, she’ll place a Kroger mobile order and drop it off at the Brook Center for Empowerment and Wellbeing at ArtStreet, home to the pantry.

“I think about it — we were really lucky.”

“When I was a kid, we made macaroni and cheese with water, because we didn’t always have milk,” she said. “Can it be done? Yeah. Is it great? No. … I didn’t have a bad childhood: We had a roof over our head. We had food in our stomach. I think about it — we were really lucky.”

basket of food
Students can pick up food at the newly renovated Food4Flyers pantry at the Brook Center. 

Arbuckle is among the growing number of faculty and staff on campus who are supporting students who say they are missing meals or eating less than they should because they don’t have access to food or the funds to purchase it. A study of Marianist universities reported that 36% of University of Dayton students say they have experienced food insecurity while on campus.

The pantry, which opened Oct. 1, 2021, is the result of a partnership led by the dean of students office in the Division of Student Development. Kristen Altenau Keen, assistant dean of students and director of the Brook Center, said news at first spread by word of mouth — often when she was chatting with other faculty and staff members while they waited to pick up their young children from the Bombeck Family Learning Center.  

“Now our students are finding us in lots of different ways,” Keen said. “It could be coming through an academic adviser, a faculty member, a case manager, the counseling center, OLR. There are so many different inroads, but they’re finding us and we’re making sure that they’re getting the food that they need.”

Students will come to Arbuckle, who coordinates access and disability services through the OLR, and talk about more than just their academic needs, something she gladly says fits in her job description under “other duties as assigned.”

“I tell students all the time, I’m a problem solver,” she said. “Do you want me to give you suggestions or do you just want me to listen and understand?”

When they mention food insecurity, she shares with students who want suggestions the location and hours of the food pantry, and lets students know that it’s also open by appointment, if privacy is a concern. Arbuckle knows hunger isn’t something they think their fellow 19-year-old college students are also dealing with. She thanks them for feeling safe enough with her to share.

And in turn, she’s happy to open up with students to help them feel heard and understood. “I’m not ashamed of my story; it’s made me who I am,” she said.

In addition to spreading the word to students about the pantry, faculty and staff are also instrumental in keeping the pantry stocked through donations.  

“Without the generosity of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors, the pantry would not be able to run,” Keen said.

“Without the generosity of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors, the pantry would not be able to run.”

Any office on campus can collect items at any time or be added to a monthly rotation of donation locations. When the pantry gets low, Arbuckle puts out a call to her colleagues — and on a text thread to her siblings — to help fill immediate needs. She meets colleagues in the parking lot, where they transfer grocery bags into her trunk. She then drives over to Kiefaber Street and opens the trunk for Brook Center students to carry inside and add to the shelves. The pantry also accepts cash donations.

Arbuckle said her donations are a way to pay forward the kindness she’s received in her life. She hopes sharing her 365-day challenge will motivate others to consider donating one item a month, a week or even a day, like her.

“If 365 students get a food item this year because I chose to donate 365 items, fabulous,” she said.

Food4Flyers pantry expands to address student hunger