Excitement and gratitude were the emotions of the day last month when the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Student Life team joined students, faculty, and staff to cut the ribbon and officially launch the new food pantry program at the college – aptly named ‘The CSM Hawk Pantry.’ Three walk-in pantries are now located at the La Plata, Leonardtown, and Prince Frederick Campuses to help remove barriers to student success for those experiencing food insecurities.

From left Prince Frederick Campus Student Life Coordinator Erika Fisher, CSM Dean of Student Development Michelle Ruble, CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy, CSM Vice President Student Equity and Success Tracy Harris, Prince Frederick Campus Operations Coordinator Alan Hemming and CSM Student Wellness and Basic Needs Specialist Isaiah Fitzhugh pose for the Hawk Pantry ribbon cutting.

The CSM Hawk Pantry program was established last fall in partnership with the Maryland Food Bank, which provides the food CSM will be distributing. In addition, the college accepts food drive donations, and through a partnership with Farming 4 Hunger (F4H), the college will also be distributing seasonal fresh produce from the F4H Demonstration Market Garden located at the Prince Frederick Campus.

“My hope, my dream, is that nobody who is a part of our community will ever be hungry,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy during the ribbon cutting. “And we’re going to do the best we can to make that happen. I am so grateful for everybody who has been working on this effort. It has been a labor of love – real love – for our students and our communities. And I thank you.”

“This was an extensive undertaking that required coordination among multiple departments, but it was very meaningful work,” explained Prince Frederick Campus Student Life Coordinator Erika Fisher. “The Hawk Pantry project is truly the best example of teamwork and this college’s commitment to providing holistic care to our students in their journey to success. I am proud of everyone’s assistance, hard work, and professionalism.” 

CSM’s commitment to address the needs of students with food insecurities began in 2017, when the CSM Student Government Association, in partnership with CSM’s President’s Cabinet, installed micro-pantries, named Hawk Feeders, on each of CSM’s four campuses to help address short-term basic needs sometimes experienced by our students and community members. Built by a CSM faculty member Bill Luyster, the self-standing Hawk Feeders cabinets are stocked through individual donations by faculty, staff and students as well as through food drives, under the adage, “Give what you can, take what you need.”  The Hawk Feeders will remain on campuses to provide students in need with grab-and-go items.

In 2019, the Student Life team was tasked with looking into the possibility of expanding the Hawk Feeder program. However, before their surveying and research were complete, the pandemic occurred and their efforts were put on hold when the college lifted the majority of courses to a remote learning environment.

But team’s desire to assist students with hunger issues never waned. The Student Life team went to work in March 2020 to empty the CSM Hawk Feeders and partner with local churches to hold 14 Mobile Hawk Feeders. These distribution events rotated between CSM’s four campuses and had students driving through the parking lots to pick up their groceries. All in all, a total of 13,290 lbs. of food were distributed to 333 students from May 2020 through August 2021.

“We knew that families were hurting in ways they hadn’t hurt before,” Murphy said of the students responding to the Mobile Hawk Feeder effort. “We knew that people needed food and that we had a responsibility to mobilize behind that. [CSM Dean of Student Development] Michelle Ruble and her team just took it on. They said, ‘This is what we do.’ And they were very successful at it, but it was heartbreaking.”

In spring 2021, college leadership revisited the expansion of the Hawk Feeder program and agreed to establish a formalized, no-cost campus food pantry system. The pantries are open weekly to CSM students who have a need and users can receive up to 30 lbs. of canned and packaged food items per week.

The CSM Hawk Pantry program plans to expand offerings by providing wraparound services, personal hygiene items, and an emergency assistance fund. To be eligible for services all pantry users will be required to show their CSM ID cards. Students can provide a copy of their current registration statement in lieu of a Student ID card. User confidentiality will be protected.

The CSM Hawk Pantries are open weekly to students at the following campus locations during regular college hours:

La Plata Campus

Location: LR Building, Room 106

Day/Time: Wednesdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Leonardtown Campus

Location: Building A, Room 109

Day/Time: Thursdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Prince Frederick Campus

Location: Building B, Room 101

Day/Time: Mondays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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