DES MOINES - They look like library drop boxes, but they're now helping fill a need around the metro.
In the neighborhood, 15 percent of people are on supplemental nutritional benefits. Students at Drake got the inspiration from a lot of places including Arkansas and Ankeny. And now, they're hoping it can be a big help for their own community.
"The concept is take what you need, leave what you can," said Katie O'Keefe, a sophomore.
"I got really invested in it," said sophomore Haley Guerdet. "I didn't know that this area was in this big a need for it. I didn't grow up in this type of thing, so I never knew that America faced this. So, this was a really big eye-opening thing."
On a campus as large as Drake's, it's often hard to see outside of the protective school bubble.
"Knowing that Drake is so community-oriented and yet, we have a food desert here essentially hit me really hard," said Parker Klyn, a junior.
On Monday, students set up three tiny food pantries across campus.
"We picked them really strategically," said Sarah Donovan, a junior. "So, the bus stop we thought is a really good one, because so many people need to use the bus system and also Drake students use it as well, so that's hitting two groups at once."
They want to build more of these, but couldn't meet all of the city's zoning requirement by semester's end.
"It's kind of like my baby because we started this and did a lot of research, so I'll be definitely be checking in, looking at these pantries every time I see them," said O'Keefe.
Over the summer, Klyn will lead the group that maintains it and selects the next seven spots.
"I have no doubt that people will use these pantries and get a lot of good use out of them," said Klyn.
And while possible theft or vandalism are real concerns, students say their primary motive will always be reaching those who need it most.
"Going forward, I don't have any huge concerns with it," said Guerdet. "I think a lot of people are going to be able to respect what we're doing here."
"We can't guarantee that everyone that accesses the food pantries are going to be in need of the food there, but I think in general if we're helping one person with food insecurities, then I think we've accomplished our mission," said Jenny Tran-Johnson, the assistant dean for student services at Drake.
Students will rely on Facebook over the summer to help keep the little pantries stocked. You can find out more on their page.They've also partnered with local churches and gotten some advertising with the Iowa Cubs.
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