Kelly Berry is on a mission to feed Virginia Tech students in need.

Berry, of Orange, Va., a junior majoring in agricultural sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is leading the 209 Manna Ministry at the Wesley Foundation, home to the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech. The 209 Manna Ministry provides food to Virginia Tech students in need of a little extra help.

During two recent mission trips to Alabama, Berry worked at different food pantries. She said these experiences helped her to realize that there are food insecurities among people in all communities.

“My greatest inspiration came when I heard a story of a student renting a locker at the gym and living out of the library,” said Berry. “I feel moved to make a difference in the Virginia Tech community. I feel privileged that I can go out to dinner or shop for groceries when there are students on campus that do not have that opportunity.”

“Occasionally, about once a year or so, we will identify a homeless student,” said Dean of Students Tom Brown. “When that happens, we work closely with the student to explore options and hopefully secure housing for the individual, and this food pantry can provide much needed additional assistance."

But the services of the food pantry won’t be limited to homeless students.

“Given that approximately 60 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid, it is not unusual for students to come up short on food needs,” said Brown. “Most students in this situation would be referred to the Dean of Students Office and we would work to support them and connect them to needed resources.”

Berry says the confidentiality of students with food insecurities is a top priority, and the pantry will use a point system to help students get what they need.

“Each student will be given 50 points a week to spend in the food pantry,” said Berry. “Each individual item will have a specific amount of points based on the value that it would be in the grocery store. Allowing them to shop gives them the freedom to choose what items they can use instead of being given a bag of pre-selected food. This will prevent food going to waste due to the students’ allergies or dislikes.” 

The cost of keeping shelves stocked at comparable university food pantries and church food pantries is an estimated at $22,000 to $25,000 annually. Berry says the Wesley Foundation hopes to raise that much through donations and support from within Virginia Tech, the local community, and businesses, and hopes to work with Greek organizations, student clubs, and other campus ministries to help stock the pantry.

Volunteer support will also be used to pick up donations, stock the shelves, and help the students shop for and bag items.

Written by Drew Knapp.

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