Helping each other through hard times

BY DONNA BOEN ’83, MTSC ’96, MIAMIAN EDITOR

More than 53.4 million people are expected to travel for Thanksgiving next week, which, if that happens, would make 2021 the highest single-year increase since 2005, according to the American Automobile Association.

With many of us isolated from family and friends in 2020, we are especially eager to gather and share talk and turkey with our loved ones on Thursday. Even Grandma Tootie’s canned cranberries sound somewhat tempting.

OK, so maybe it’s hard to give thanks for cranberries — ranked the most disliked food on the Thanksgiving table in a survey of 1,092 U.S. adults conducted by The Vacationer travel website.

However, many of us will enjoy stuffing ourselves with plenty of other side dishes.

Tragically, not all of us.

The harsh reality is that some among us — the students we teach and our colleagues we work alongside — face food insecurity. They’re not only worried about how they’ll pay for the turkey and fixings, they’re anxious about what they’ll eat this evening.

Knowledge of need not on people’s radar

Data collected through a Miami Student Health Survey in 2018 indicated that 20% of Miami’s students were going without food on a fairly regular basis. That number is higher than Butler County’s, which is 13%, and the state of Ohio, which hovers around 15%.

Those survey numbers might actually be significantly higher, said Ashley Hopkins, senior assistant director of Miami’s Student Success Center. She’s the one who helps the international graduate student who doesn’t make enough to feed his wife and two children and the junior living off campus who is paying for tuition and books out of pocket and is now out of funds three weeks before the semester ends.

“The idea that there are Miami students who are going hungry is just off of so many people’s radar,” said Hopkins, whose office has given out more than 2,000 meals in the past two years. “People are surprised by that, especially at Miami.”

Another surprise might be that the campus food pantry, once located in a former fraternity house at the corner of Withrow and Tallawanda, was forced to close near the beginning of COVID-19.

New pantry opening soon

With the new year comes a new food pantry in a new location — Hanna House, located on Spring Street between Nellie Craig Walker Hall (formerly CAB) and Wells Hall. It will be open to everyone at the university and function in collaboration with TOPSS (Talawanda Oxford Pantry & Social Services).

Its immediate need is money so that the pantry can be fully stocked with food and health-care items when it opens second semester.

Cheryl Birkenhauer, a program associate in Teacher Education and chair of CPAC (Classified Personnel Advisory Committee), and Randy Hollowell, manager of IT communication and client advocacy and chair of UPAC (Unclassified Personnel Advisory Committee), are asking faculty and staff to consider contributing toward the food pantry on Nov. 30, also known as GivingTuesday — a global movement created in 2012 as a day that encourages people to do good.

In addition to the food pantry, Miami’s other two GivingTuesday campaign priorities are the Emergency Needs Fund, which provides immediate aid to students whose status as a student is threatened as a result of unforeseen circumstances; and the Dean’s Fund, which enables the dean of each college the flexibility to meet the most pressing needs of their programs.

Birkenhauer considers the 2021 Faculty and Staff Campaign a vote of confidence in Miami’s mission.

“Your investment sends a message to the thousands of parents, board members, alumni, fellow staff, and community members that we join them in offering not only our professional expertise to the students each day, but our financial support as well,” she said.

How you can help

Hopkins, who aches for the students as they tell her their stories — some have no homes to go to during next week’s break — appreciates the support from faculty and staff who readily open their hearts and their wallets to help.

“When you’re trying to get through school, you prioritize your tuition bill and your books first. Food is often something that students will put by the wayside,” said Hopkins, who teams with a number of campus partners to support students’ success.

The food pantry is one of many programs that benefit from faculty and staff support. You can support any area of Miami that is meaningful to you, and participation is what matters most – every gift, regardless of amount, makes a difference to our students.

To review the 2021 Faculty and Staff Campaign priorities and make a gift online, visit www.GiveToMiamiOH.org/facstaff. To make a gift via payroll deduction, visit https://miamioh.formstack.com/forms/payroll_deduction_form. If you prefer, send a check made out to the Miami University Foundation via campus mail to the Advancement Services Building, or call the Office of Annual Giving at 513-529-5229.

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