Nursing student Katelynn Gipson and Dr. Marilyn Harrington take inventory in the School of Nursing's food pantry.
Nursing student Katelynn Gipson and Dr. Marilyn Harrington take inventory in the School of Nursing's food pantry.
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School of Nursing opens food pantry

Published on Monday, February 5, 2024

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Photography

Some University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing students may not be only hungry for knowledge. They may also be just hungry.

To help students whose resources are stretched while in school, the UMMC School of Nursing started a food pantry. Dr. Marilyn Harrington, associate professor of nursing and assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, is leading the effort with help from first-year nursing student Katelynn Gipson.

Marilyn Harrington

“Our hearts go out to students who are trying to make ends meet while pursuing a nursing degree,” Harrington said. “Even a small increase in the cost of groceries can have a big impact on the budgets of students.”

The pantry, housed in the School of Nursing near the building’s side entrance, includes a variety of canned foods, crackers and cereals as well as cleaning products and personal hygiene items – “anything you might need in a home,” Harrington said.

Inside storage cabinets are neat rows of donated individual oatmeal cups and tuna salad kits, ramen noodles and boxes of macaroni and cheese. Cans of beans and stacks of protein bars are ready when needed.

Gipson and Harrington take inventory weekly to see what’s been donated and what items are needed. This will help them learn what’s most needed by student nurses, as well as staff and faculty members facing emergencies.

“Students may have their courses covered and rent, but food expenses are often covered with what’s left,” Harrington said.

Noticing Gipson’s organizational skills, Harrington approached her about the project. She was happy to get involved.

“Our food pantry will be a big help,” Gipson said, “and it’s a great opportunity to volunteer and to help others.”

According to the nonprofit Feeding America, one in six Mississippians – more than 480,000 people – are facing food insecurity.

Helping students have the food they need is essential to keeping them on track for earning a nursing degree, Harrington said. The School of Nursing Food Pantry follows the announcement of another safety net, a Student Benevolence Fund for students in UMMC’s six health sciences schools who are experiencing emergencies that could affect their ability to work toward their degrees.

Harrington said donations are welcome to the School of Nursing Food Pantry. “Any canned goods, foods with a long shelf life and toiletries are needed.”

Nursing students may also need individually packaged items that don’t require refrigeration that can make a quick lunch and can be easily carried in a backpack.

Monetary donations will allow needed items to be purchased for the new pantry.

Harrington said the food pantry plans were formulated in 2023, with the pantry opening in January.

“Our students may not share with us what they’re going through,” she said. “We hope that they will reach out if they need help. A few pantry items can make a difference in a student’s life.”

Until then, students, faculty and staff can email Harrington at mharrington@umc.edu for the pantry’s hours and inkinddonations@umc.edu to donate.