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Paw’s Pantry feeds hundreds a year thanks to Jaguar generosity

Jul 11, 2017

Description of the following video:

Michael Stottlemyer speaks: So, you’ll see lots of these orange crates all throughout campus. They’re typically outside major university offices.

[IUPUI bug appears in upper left]

Michael speaks: Like SPEA has one, the School of Science has one. The library has one, Honors College. And you’ll see that people can just fill these donations up then. Every now and then we send volunteers out and circle around these crates and pick up any donations that way.

[Video: A panning shot of cans of green beans]

[Words appear: Michael Stottlemyer, Paw’s Pantry student chairman]

Michael speaks: And this is where we’ll start addressing our needs come fall. So, used to be this used to be all full of like macaroni and cheese, lots of cereal, pop tarts. This was like our breakfast. As you can see we still have a few items left. But as you can see, we’re running low, we have some empty spaces.

So once the fall starts back up and we start pushing out our food drives, I know we’re trying to team up with Regatta. And we have a food drive planned with SPEA with their Public Safety Career Day. We will ask for lots of breakfast items so we can get this all filled back up.

We also go through spaghetti sauce a lot. So, this is about all we have left here, so we’ll eventually have to start asking for that. So, this is where all of our extra food goes to and anything that can’t fit in the actual pantry itself comes here.

[Video: “Welcome to Paw’s Pantry” sign]

Michael speaks: Food Pantries have this negative stereotype that only people in poverty or food stamps can use them.

But we want to be known as a food pantry run by the students for all students.

[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise,]

[End of transcript]

If you thought your undergraduate studies were made at a hectic pace, meet Reginald Anderson.

The physical and health education senior balances his academics with a demanding construction job along with personal training and community volunteering. While paving his way to a degree, Anderson appreciates the help that Paw’s Pantry provides. He is one of the hundreds of Jaguars to utilize the food pantry in the last academic year.

“I can honestly say Paw’s Pantry has really helped me take a lot of stress out my life and college career,” Anderson said while selecting two big boxes of Cheerios during a recent visit. “It allowed me to save a few dollars with hygiene items, food items and healthy produce. I’m really thankful for the program.”

Established in 2013, Paw’s Pantry is open to students, staff and faculty members with valid IUPUI identification. With 138.6 square feet of space on the second floor of the Campus Center, it is a small but mighty solution for food insecurity. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays (students only) and Thursdays (students, staff and faculty).

Food, toiletries and beverages are portioned out with a weekly point system. Each item gets a sticker that determines portion size, and each portion size is equal to a point. Users get 25 points a week.

Reginald Anderson shops at Paw's Pantry.
IUPUI senior Reginald Anderson selects some food items at Paw’s Pantry.Tim Brouk, IU Communications

Many college campuses have similar resources, but Paw’s Pantry requires no proof of income.

Looking for quality donations

Cereal, snacks and produce prove most popular at Paw’s. On a recent visit, small cartons of chocolate milk and baby carrots cooled in the pantry’s industrial refrigerator while hundreds of canned and boxed items filled shelves.

Paw’s Pantry survives on donations from several sources. Assistant director Shaina Lawrence drives to area elementary schools for donations and surplus stock from cafeterias. More donations come from Paw’s Pantry’s partnership with Faith, Hope and Love pantries. Indianapolis Fruit provides most of the produce, while huge, bright orange boxes scattered across IUPUI campus hotspots bring in a wide variety of products.

Paw’s Pantry has inspired faculty members to lead their programs in donation drives. James Marrs, professor and director of graduate studies for the Department of Biology, gives students a few extra points if they bring donations to class. Last fall, more than 150 cell biology undergrads took advantage of the offer and helped stock the shelves at Paw’s.

Marrs said that when his students donate, they realize that some of their fellow students are not as fortunate as they are. They are educated to the fact that food insecurity happens on a college campus and that the future scientists sitting next to them might need help from Paw’s Pantry for their next meal.

“I see it as a really great cause in helping student success,” Marrs said. “I know some students have incredible hardships, so I know this is serving a great need.”

During the recent visit, three IUPUI staff members handed bags of donations to Michael Stottlemyer, Paw’s Pantry’s student chairman.

Stottlemyer, a mathematics education junior, has volunteered at Paw’s Pantry since his first year as a Jaguar. One of his goals was to increase the quality of donations.

“We want to change that mindset from just grabbing something you don’t like from your parents’ cupboard,” Stottlemyer said. “That’s how we get a plethora of canned green beans, peas and carrots. We need to change it to ‘What you want to eat, we want to eat.’”

Stottlemyer showed the storage rooms for the pantry within the Liberal Arts Building. About double the size of the actual pantry, stock shelves brimmed with mostly canned goods – dozens of different brands of green beans – and other less-desirable items for a college student.

“We want to be known as a food pantry run by students for students,” Stottlemyer said. 

Expansion soon?

Stottlemyer, Lawrence and other Paw’s Pantry leaders attended a conference June 30 with representatives from college food pantries at the University of Cincinnati. The all-day event discussed ways to improve and to better reach students who suffer from food insecurity. Stottlemyer and his fellow student volunteers are active on Twitter and Instagram as @iupuipawspantry, alerting followers when new food items and other donations are available. Social media has helped increase the number of donations and the traffic into the pantry.

Michael Stottlemeyer stands in front of a wooden sculpture, smiling down at the camera.
Michael Stottlemyer

Michael Stottlemyer is not one to take his college career sitting down – not when it comes to fighting food insecurity at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and certainly not when he sees a chance to bring scholarships to fellow students.

Nearly two years ago, the commandant of Stottlemyer’s military-based prep school, Anderson Preparatory Academy, sent the now-IUPUI student an email. It detailed Indiana House Bill 1002, which would have created the Next Generation Hoosier Educators scholarship. Worth $7,500 per year, the scholarships would have been awarded to graduating high school students who promised to study education in-state and then dedicate five years to teaching Indiana youth upon completion of their own college degree.

Stottlemyer thought it was a great way to address Indiana’s teacher shortage, but he wanted to know: Why wait?

“I decided one day in January that I was going to go to the Statehouse,” Stottlemyer said. “I was going to write a testimony explaining why the bill was great, but also why the people who could apply should be changed to include high school seniors and current college students.”

So he took the wintry walk over to the Capitol and presented his case to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

“I happened to be the very last person to testify. Before me, it was these big-time universities. Everyone just kept saying, ‘We support the bill. We support the bill.’ There was not a single issue with the bill until I spoke. So I walked up there, little freshman me, and I said, ‘I support the bill, but I have a problem.’”

The “little freshman” Stottlemyer argued that, as someone already studying math education, he would be prepared to lead a classroom earlier than the high schoolers who would qualify under the existing bill. He also argued that, as someone paying for school himself, he would gladly commit to an Indiana secondary school, even if he only received the scholarship for part of his college tenure. And he contended that there were others like him.

“They had big concerns about if they paid for just two years, would existing college students complain about the five-year commitment. I just kept telling them, ‘You’re talking to someone who is one of those students. I would do that, and I have friends who are struggling to pay for school, and they would do it.’”

After giving his testimony, Stottlemyer tried to rush out – it was Thursday, and he had class – but was stopped by one of the bill’s co-authors. The two exchanged questions and emails, but Stottlemyer didn’t hear anything else about the bill for some time.

Eventually, Stottlemyer got his hands on an application after the Institute of Higher Education sent them to high school guidance counselors, and he noticed a few key changes. The version of the bill then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law included the 200 scholarships originally planned to be awarded statewide, but they were now open to current college students as well as high school seniors.

No doubt buoyed by the victory, Stottlemyer applied, completed the interview process and earned the scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year. While the money is nice, he insists that he would have gone through the process at the Statehouse regardless.

“I have always wanted to speak up for what’s right,” said Stottlemyer, who will be entering his junior year this fall. “Even if I weren’t going to apply because I was up for other scholarships, I knew I needed to testify on behalf of education students across the state, the students who recognized the same issue but were too far away to testify or were just too scared. So I felt like I was there to represent all education majors in college.”

Standing up to fight food insecurity

It was not the first or the last time Stottlemyer had spoken up for others. When asked about his “crusade mentality,” he gave credit to his grandmother.

“Through high school, my grandmother and I were very close – and still are very close. She was always one to put everybody before herself. You take care of yourself, you get yourself the bare necessities, but with everything else, you need to help other people. It’s really where I learned to stand up for others, to stand up for what’s right.”

That same year he lobbied for the bill change, Stottlemyer got involved with Paw’s Pantry, IUPUI’s food pantry that serves students, faculty and staff. His first-year seminar course had a community-service requirement, and he chose the pantry because no one else had. He soon realized the situation was even more dire than he thought.

“I saw Paw’s Pantry with no food on the shelves. The food that it did have wasn’t the type of things that college students want to eat, and there were times when volunteers would get sent home because they had nothing to do. I asked, ‘Who am I just to stay quiet with all of my connections? Who am I just to keep that for myself?’

“I’m here to serve everyone. Even though I don’t have a problem with food insecurity, I know it’s an issue, and I know that students at our school need this service. But if you don’t have food to serve them, what are they to do? They’re not ones to speak up for themselves.”

In one year with Stottlemyer as vice chair of donations, Paw’s Pantry went from having sporadic supplies to being able to donate excess food to other pantries in the Indianapolis community. It now accepts fresh and frozen foods, and as Stottlemyer moves into the top leadership position of chair next year, the Pantry hopes to keep its doors open more days throughout the week and provide options that appeal more to the taste buds of the average college student as well as those of international students.

Stottlemyer is on pace to graduate in 2019 with his degree in math education. He knows he’ll be teaching in Indiana for at least five years after earning his diploma; that much is certain. In the two years until then, however, we will just have to wait and see who he stands up for next.

Donate to Paw’s Pantry

Lawrence said she and the Division of Student Affairs have officially requested a relocation and expansion for an additional 1,500-square-foot facility. No location has been found yet, but the current location would stay in use for hygiene and clothing items. 

“We really need that space, but we don’t know where it is yet,” Lawrence said. “We would have enough room for another refrigerator and freezer. We need the space to increase our food supply.”

Social work graduate student Cherise Brookes will not be able to take advantage of the new digs, as she is finishing her IUPUI career this summer. But she was thankful for Paw’s Pantry the last two years. As an international student, transportation was sometimes tough, money tight and free time to grocery shop scarce.

“This is a great service,” said Brookes, who hails from Antigua. “I used to live in international housing, and most students there know about this and come here. Before, we used to have to carry a ton of groceries down the street when we would go to Marsh, but this is a good opportunity to come here.”

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