Food for thought

It’s National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and I’d like to thank the students and staff of CMU’s Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center for their excellent work raising awareness, hosting events and engaging our campus in this important issue.

No student at CMU should ever go hungry.

We know that as many as 30% of CMU students struggle with food insecurity. Several months ago, students and staff from CMU’s Financial Wellness Collaborative and CMU Student Food Pantry formed a Food Insecurity Committee to address the growing challenge of hunger on our campus.

Many of you are aware of a petition circulating online asking CMU to begin a food swipe donation program. I’m proud to say that, even before the petition appeared, members of the committee had already begun working to develop such a program.

I also want to ensure that every member of our campus community knows that CMU also makes free meals available to students who need them. If you know a student who needs help, here are a few resources you can share with them:

  • Every student with a meal plan receives six guest swipes each semester they can use to feed a hungry friend. Students must accompany their guest into the residential restaurant to use the guest swipe.
  • The CMU Student Food Pantry is now open three times a week to better meet students’ needs and has served more than 380 students this semester.
  • Any student who needs help can speak with a Care Advocate to find additional resources.

Of note: Faculty, staff, alumni, student organizations and donors have raised more than $70,000 for the pantry to date, and many of us took advantage of the CMU Police Department’s Food for Fines program this year. The pantry has distributed thousands of pounds of food to hungry students thanks to all of you.

When students need help, help is here for them. But we can always do better.

I applaud our student leaders for their role in championing the cause of hungry students. Every suggestion that can improve life at Central is valuable, and I appreciate the leadership and activism I see daily from our CMU students.

I want to encourage students to reach out to leaders around the university — including myself — to share their ideas. You might be able to contribute to existing efforts to make powerful change or help staff identify new ways to tackle problems. Tweeting can be a powerful way to share your thoughts, but there is nothing stronger than making a personal connection. When we work collaboratively, there is no problem we cannot address.

I also want to encourage our faculty and staff to help students make connections with people who can support and encourage their activism. I’d like to thank Alex Kappus for connecting our student leaders with the appropriate individuals in Campus Dining to continue the conversation about student hunger.

Each day, I receive many questions and requests. Some come through phone calls and emails, others come via social media. In some cases, it may seem like it takes me a while to respond – and that’s intentional.

As a leader — as your president — I want to make sure I understand an issue and learn the facts before I react. In most cases, there is more to a story than what may first appear online. While it is easier, and often more satisfying, to react or respond immediately, it also means making decisions without full information.

That is not my leadership style. Before I act, I check the facts. I try to understand all sides of the story before I make decisions that will impact thousands of students, faculty and staff. I want to be sure that when I respond, I do so with as much information and understanding as possible.

As conversations on Twitter unfold, know that there are conversations happening offline, too. When you ask questions or make suggestions, know that we hear you.

As we prepare to celebrate a season of thanksgiving, I want to reflect on an important aspect of our culture that makes me thankful every day: At CMU, we Take Care of one another. We embrace kindness and practice empathy. We celebrate compassion and caring.

Whether a student needs help with access to food from the Student Food Pantry, help addressing financial hardship from the Student Emergency Fund, help addressing stress or anxiety from our Counseling Center, this community is here to help.

If you need help, or know someone who does, please simply ask. We are here for you, for them and for each other.

Be well,

Bob Davies