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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Shocker Support Locker staff discusses resources available to Wichita State students

Garima Thapa
Cecillia Rivas, an exchange student from Paraguay, goes through items at Shocker Support Locker.

For low-income Wichita State students or those without easy access to transportation, food deserts can pose a serious problem. To help combat food deserts, the Shocker Support Locker has aimed to address food insecurity for over seven years. 

Food deserts are areas where someone lives without access to a grocery store or healthy produce and food options within a one-mile radius or a 10-mile radius for rural communities. 

According to kansashealth.org, over 30% of Kansas counties are considered food deserts, including the area where Wichita State’s campus resides. In Wichita, 44 square miles of the city are considered food deserts. 

Bethany Hollingsworth, a senior social work major and Shocker Support Locker student assistant, said food insecurity can have detrimental effects on every aspect of a student’s life.

“It can affect getting to class, getting good grades, and your involvement in extracurriculars,” Hollingsworth said.

Wichita State’s solution to food insecurity began when the Student Government Association sent a survey to students in 2015, which reported that 56% of WSU students knew at least one to three students dealing with food insecurity. The survey also reported that 50% of students, including 67% of international students, had skipped a meal due to being unable to afford to eat.

In response to the survey, the Shocker Support Locker began operation in February 2016. The locker resides in Grace Wilkie Hall but will be moved to the Shocker Success Center upon the building’s completion, which is planned for this summer

Sushmita Tamang, an international student from Nepal, grabs a fruit from the Shocker Support Locker. (Garima Thapa)

The locker, operated by SGA and Student Engagement, Advocacy & Leadership (SEAL), aims to be accessible for students and faculty. According to Caitlin Nolen, SEAL’s student advocacy coordinator, students can grab 15 items a week. 

“Say someone needs more items; we’re really accommodating with that,” Nolen said. “And if they just send us an email or come to the office, we’re able to make those accommodations for them.”

Some accommodations include helping students access dining dollars, food stamps, and other food-providing resources. For accommodations, students can reach out to the locker’s student staff members, Nolen and the SEAL office, or the WSU CARE Team.

The Shocker Support Locker also includes more than the average resources one may expect at a local food pantry, according to Nolen.

“We have food, canned and fresh produce, hygiene and laundry products, school supplies, and we also have baby products,” Nolen said. 

Through their work, Shocker Support Locker staffers hope to end the stigma around seeking help for food insecurity. 

“I’d rather students have the food and resources they need to (and) not have to worry about when their next meal is going to be or when they can do laundry again,” Gabriel Fonseca, interim executive director for SEAL, said. “We’ve done a lot of work to make that space feel welcoming.”

When the locker moves to the Shocker Success Center, SEAL representatives hope to create a space that feels like a grocery store to make students more comfortable. They also hope to increase resources and hours of operation.

The Shocker Support Locker is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

How to help

For those wishing to aid the Shocker Support Locker’s fight to bridge the gap left by food deserts, there are multiple ways to get involved, including advocacy, volunteering with the Shocker Support Locker and donating. 

Those interested in volunteering can email Nolen at [email protected] or sign up on ShockerSync. 

Money donations can be made online through the WSU Foundation’s website, and food donations can be taken to the locker or SGA. Food must be new and unopened.

Students can also donate food to the Shocker Support Locker to pay off parking tickets and citations for parking tickets through Food For Fines, an opportunity offered during the first week of each month.

“Whether it impacts you or not, it (food insecurity) impacts someone you may know,” Fonseca said. “Utilizing your voice and advocating for your peers helps move that conversation along.”

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About the Contributors
Shelby DuVall
Shelby DuVall, Reporter
Shelby DuVall is a sophomore reporter, designer and photographer majoring in graphic design. This is her first year on the Sunflower staff, and at WSU. She's from Altamont, Kansas, and enjoys rollerskating and gaming. DuVall's pronouns are she/her.
Garima Thapa
Garima Thapa, Photographer
Garima Thapa is a second-year photographer for The Sunflower.

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