Brother Devlin’s food pantry on campus helps students

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Brother Devlin’s food pantry on campus helps students

Brother Devlin sets out some of the products donated to the food pantry in his office.

Brother Devlin sets out some of the products donated to the food pantry in his office.

ALISON ROBLES/THE IONIAN

Brother Devlin sets out some of the products donated to the food pantry in his office.

ALISON ROBLES/THE IONIAN

ALISON ROBLES/THE IONIAN

Brother Devlin sets out some of the products donated to the food pantry in his office.

Daniel Macri, Staff Writer

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Every college student can understand the difficulty that comes with balancing their finances and academics. Having noticed the struggle of students to afford meals, Brother J. Kevin Devlin decided to start a food pantry on campus.

In 1802, Blessed Edmund Rice opened his first school in Waterford, Ireland. He realized the need for education in his community. Beyond this, he also noticed that the students were coming to school hungry. In response, Rice decided to open a bake shop next to the school. He fed his students in the morning, in the afternoon and upon sending them home. He understood the importance of proper nutrition to a good education.

Devlin also understands this need, and he said he was inspired by Edmund Rice to open his own food pantry on campus to provide proper nutrition to those who need it.

“Hunger has always been something that’s in the back of my mind,” Devlin said. “You can’t concentrate, you can’t focus, you can’t do anything [when you’re hungry]. You do feel like a victim when you can’t eat.”

Devlin has been involved in feeding the hungry for much of his life. In the 1970s, he was involved in starting a hunger walk, which still takes place every year at Bishop Hendricken High School in Rhode Island. In the local community, he has been involved with the Hope Community since 1986 – which serves food to those in need in New Rochelle – and with Abraham House in the Bronx for the past 25 years.

Devlin said he opened the pantry after noticing
that students were running out of money on
their meal cards and couldn’t afford to put more
money on them. He wanted to create a space
where students could come to get food when
they needed it, no questions asked. The pantry is open to commuters and students who live on and off campus. The identity of any student who goes to get food is kept private.

“People who need food, they should just come here,” Devlin said. “All I do is give them a bag and say, ‘Help yourself.’”

Devlin also understands how hard it can be for college students to balance expenses.

“It’s tough nowadays to get enough money to do [what] you need to do,” Devlin said. “To pay for tuition, to get books, to pay for car fare, to pay for clothes, to have some money for recreation and to have money for food.”

If you want to support the pantry, the best way to do so is to drop food off to Devlin at the Student Success office on the second floor of the LaPenta Student Union.

There is a committee for the food pantry made up of students and faculty that is working to improve the pantry. They are working on a website to make the pantry’s inventory easily available to students and to formalize the process more, according to committee member Dr. Chrissy Martins. The committee is also looking at potentially moving to Driscoll Hall in order to have more space for the pantry.

“If students have extra money on their meal plan at the end of the year, instead of feeling like they need to get four pallets of Gatorade, they can actually donate those dining dollars to the food pantry,” Dr. Christina Carlson, an English professor at Iona who is on the food pantry committee said. “They just need to talk to Frank Onderdonk from Chartwells to arrange it.”

The committee has seen progress being made with the new food pantry.

“It’s moving in a very good direction going forward, with us possibly getting some space,” Martins said. “I think it’s going to be great, a great resource for students, and now is as good a time as any to do this.”

Students and faculty on the committee are continually working to help students who could benefit from the pantry.

“I had no idea there was such a need on campus,” sophomore Carlie Brainard, a student member of the committee said. “I really felt like it was my responsibility to help my classmates.”

They want to improve the pantry as much as they can to reach as many students as possible.

“I’m excited to get it up and moving and bigger and better,” Brainard said.

If you are interested in getting more information on the food pantry or would like to contribute, contact Devlin. His office is located on the second floor of LaPenta and he can be reached through his Iona email, [email protected] edu.