A hearty supply of fresh garden-grown vegetables is now available at Elgin Community College’s student-run Spartan Food Pantry thanks to two garden beds in the Advocate Sherman Hospital Natural Prairie and Community Garden.
Use of the garden beds was generously provided at no cost to students in the college’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society—the group that manages Spartan Food Pantry operations—which has also taken on the role of gardeners, tending to the garden every other day since April to ensure their crops are well cared for.
“The Spartan Food Pantry has experienced an amazing year with the addition of the community garden beds at Advocate Sherman Hospital,” said Amybeth Maurer, ECC director of orientation and student life and PTK advisor. “It’s inspiring to see PTK members nurture their vegetable garden so that other ECC students will have access to healthy options in the food pantry, and it’s encouraging to watch students learn valuable, life-long skills in the process.”
Carrots, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, peas, and other nutritious vegetables are all grown under the helpful instruction of University of Illinois Extension master gardeners. Trained and certified, master gardeners volunteer their time conducting horticultural educational programming in the area. The master gardeners helped PTK decide which vegetables to grow and how to care for them to provide the best crop yield.
For some students, receiving a free bag of groceries helps them to be able to afford to pay a bill or put gas in their car. The pantry was visited over 1,700 times by more than 550 students during the spring 2018 semester. According to ECC’s Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Office, more than one in five ECC students face significant financial challenges.
"Having an on-campus food pantry is important to removing the stigma around food pantries,” said ECC student and former PTK Food Pantry Officer Erin Humpfer. “The food pantry is a judgment-free zone. We are happy to help our fellow students out…no questions asked.”
The Spartan Food Pantry was established in February 2015 by PTK whose service-based leadership project for the academic year focused on hunger. Students spent the year volunteering at area food pantries and soup kitchens to see how hunger affected the community. They recognized that food insecurity was closer to home than they originally thought—it affected their classmates and friends.
Patronage is open to current ECC students, whether they need groceries for the week or a quick snack between classes. It is located in Building B, Room B175 (next to Student Life). For additional information on the Spartan Food Pantry or to donate, visit the spartan pantry webpage.