KOKOMO, Ind. —Thanksgiving during a global pandemic may not look like the traditional celebration, but that doesn’t mean skipping the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
Faculty in the Indiana University Kokomo School of Nursing recognized that it’s been a hard year for many students and their families, and worked with the Cougar Cupboard campus food pantry to provide all the ingredients for the customary holiday meal for 49 students and their families — nearly 200 people.
Erin Geiselman, assistant professor of nursing, said many students work, and help support families, and may have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty in nursing and allied health professions stepped up to fill bags with items such as stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, cans of sweet potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, and corn, to assure they can enjoy the meal. The Cougar Cupboard provided turkeys as well.
“These past few months have been hard for everyone,” she said. “We wanted to be sure if the pandemic was creating additional hardships, that we could help fill in that gap. Our celebrations may not look the same this year, but we want to celebrate gratitude. We wanted them to have that meal to celebrate at home, and were happy to provide it.”
Laura Bain-Selbo, campus resource navigator and Cougar Cupboard coordinator, said they filled bags for families ranging from two people all the way to 15. The recipients were very appreciative, she added.
“It’s as much about family as it is the meal for many of them,” she said. “It was a little bit of a lift for all of us, for them to be able to leave with some food, and not worry about providing that big meal. People like to give around the holidays. This year in particular, everyone is feeling the strain. Being able to do something like this has been a blessing.”
Geiselman added that because 100 percent of the School’s faculty participated, Dean Susan Hendricks gave $1 for every food item donated, and two other faculty members, who wanted to remain anonymous, teamed up to match Hendricks’s gift. Then Mary Bourke, assistant dean of graduate programs, offered an additional $1,000 donation, for a total gift of about $2,000 for the food pantry.
“I’m really grateful for everyone who participated,” said Geiselman, noting that undergraduate and graduate students all provided items as well.
“There was no lack of giving spirit,” she said. “People have been down, but we are a family here, and we take care of each other.”
Bain-Selbo said that money will help keep the pantry stocked when it is open this winter, while classes are held remotely.
As the School of Nursing held its drive for the Thanksgiving meal, faculty in other schools collected other needed items for the pantry, such as pasta and pasta sauce, granola bars, oatmeal packets, ravioli, macaroni and cheese, and more.
Geiselman said many college students experience food insecurity, which can impede their academic success.
“We want them to be able to take their exams and study with a clear head, with good nutrition,” she said. “As health care providers, we are in a service profession. If we can support our students and encourage them to use the cupboard so they can have better success, they will be better prepared to join the workforce, and then can give back because they were cared for in their time of need. They shouldn’t have to choose between paying bills and eating a meal.”
The Cougar Cupboard will be open for online orders and pick up February 8, except for when the campus is closed from December 24 to January 4 for the holidays.
Students may order food online at the Cougar Cupboard website, and will receive an email when it is ready to be picked up. Order pick up will be available Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monetary donations, which will be used to purchase food for the pantry, may be made at the website as well.
For more information, or to arrange pick up outside regular hours, contact SLCD@iuk.edu.
Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.