Wesley 5K Walk provides support GV food pantry
GVL / Emily Frye Youssef Darwich (far left) assists some Grand Valley student volunteers at the GVSU Sustainability Farm on Friday Sept. 30, 2016.
With all that Grand Valley State University has to offer, it may be easy for people to forget that some students who are enrolled suffer from problems such as hunger and food insecurity. To raise awareness of such problems, the "Wesley 5K Walk to Replenish" was held Sunday, Oct. 30 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cook Carillon Tower.
The concept for the walk was thought of by Reverend Greg Lawton, director of the Wesley Fellowship, and included registered participants receiving a T-shirt and some snacks while enjoying a DJ. The idea came from Lawton’s earlier experience in a similar walk for hunger held by Access of West Michigan in May.
“I was looking for ways that we might benefit Grand Valley,” Lawton said. “I wanted to do two things. I wanted to raise awareness for Replenish and I wanted to do something that shows how our campus ministry cares about these kinds of things.”
Started in 2009, Replenish is the food pantry at GVSU which provides support to students who have limited access to food due to financial struggles.
The final walk came to actualization through several organizations on campus alongside the Wesley Fellowship, including the Office of Sustainability Practices (OSP) and the Women’s Center, which runs Replenish. Lawton’s office is in the same building as the OSP, which helped him to connect with graduate assistant Amanda Rodgers and made them natural partners.
The OSP is affiliated with GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project, which helps to provide food to both campus dining through sale and to Replenish through donation, tying them in with the goal of the walk.
“I think a lot of people don’t think of Grand Valley students as particularly in need when it comes to food insecurity,” Rodgers said. “With poverty and hunger being a need on our campus, we love to highlight that issue of sustainability.”
Since its inception, Replenish has seen a steady increase in student usage, making the existence of a food pantry on campus a necessity.
“Last year we served 615 unique students," said Candace Faistenhammer, special projects graduate assistant in the Women's Center. "This month we were at 126 visits."
Advocates of the food pantry said hunger makes it very difficult for a student to achieve their full potential.
“Our mission is to replenish and restore students for academic success,” said Sharalle Arnold, associate director of the Women’s Center.
The walk was structured as a fundraiser that involved a $10 registration fee and gave participants the option to choose areas they wished to learn more about in relation to the walk. Some people also chose to donate money without participating to help raise funds. However, addressing the need for awareness of student hunger and Replenish as a resource was a big part of the reasoning behind the walk’s creation.
“Any opportunity for us to partner with someone on campus who can spread the word, that’s really invaluable," Arnold said. “We have the items we just need to make sure students know.”
All three organizations that participated stated that they hoped the walk would become an annual occurrence on campus and that they enjoyed the intersectional approach taken by their offices to make one collective event.
“It’s our efforts to create new campus partners and community partners,” Faistenhammer said.
Replenish is located in Kirkhof Center Room 0074 and students in need may visit twice a month.