Purple Pantry Ready to Help Students this Holiday Season

The Purple Pantry targets food insecurity on the campus of East Carolina University. It’s now in its second year and has experienced an increase in the number of students it serves. Organizers know the holidays can bring extra financial burdens to students who may be trying to balance their budgets at the risk of getting healthy meals.

Jarmichael Harris, coordinator of ECU Collegiate Recovery Community said the pantry served about 40 people total during the fall semester of 2018. Since relocating the pantry to the basement of the Main Campus Student Center, it sees nearly that number per month.

“We’re now serving about 25 to 30 students per month,” Harris said. “Students can come in, show their 1 Card and shop as they need to. The average student takes about 8 to 10 pounds of food per visit. There is no limit on the amount they can take.”

Purple Pantry’s Mission

The pantry is designed to provide free, nonperishable food and personal hygiene items to ECU students.

“This service is very much in need on college campuses across the country,” Harris said.

“The Purple Pantry not only provides proper nourishment to our students, but lets them know that ECU understands their situation and needs.”

Purple Pantry’s Ally

The pantry has gained an ally in its battle against food insecurity, a new student service-learning lab. It is designed to simulate many of the concepts from the Industrial Distribution and Logistics (IDIS) degree program.

The lab, located in the Science and Technology Building, will serve as a central warehouse for food reserves for the pantry. Student volunteers will operate the lab, running it much like any distribution center they would encounter in business.

ECU Transit has agreed to support operations by providing delivery of donations. They will deliver to the lab and transport food to the pantry so its shelves can be restocked.

Open Sky Group’s Contribution to the Cause

Open Sky Group is donating services to implement JDA Warehouse Management software. It will help the students track the food from the time it is donated, shipped to the pantry and picked up by the students.

“This is an exciting project for Open Sky Group,” said Jason Yantiss, vice president of client services for Open Sky Group. “It’s important for us as a company to give back to the communities in which we work and live. When we can combine what we love to do — improve processes and implement software — that really makes our day.”

We’re looking forward to what we can achieve together with the students and professors at ECU. Not only to give them real world business experience, but also benefit those who might otherwise struggle to get the nourishment they need.”

JDA Software’s Contribution to the Cause

JDA Software’s University Gifting Program is donating computer software for the lab. Wayland Fox, senior director of product management at JDA said, “We’re happy to provide software for this effort at ECU as part of our efforts to expose students to our industry-leading supply chain solutions. Hands-on training is an incredibly valuable way to help them understand supply chain concepts and apply them to their career skills and pursuits when they graduate. JDA encourages giving back to the community and allows associates to volunteer time throughout the year for charitable causes. Providing software for the Purple Pantry is another way we can give back and help students in need.”

What’s Next for ECU’s Purple Pantry?

The lab is currently in a developmental start-up mode. Its goal is to get operations completely up and running in the spring semester.

Dr. Mark Angolia, associate professor and IDIS program coordinator, said the whole idea behind the lab is for students to help students while fostering the university’s academic and service missions. It’s also bringing the ECU community together with multiple departments supporting an effort to ensure students can overcome food insecurity.

“Service is our motto,” Harris said. “We consider ourselves a service institution.”

The pantry is open from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Holiday hours may vary.