Making a Big Impact on Campus
Nearly three years ago, a group of University of Oklahoma students established the OU Food Pantry, a free resource open to all OU students, faculty, and staff to address food insecurity and hunger on campus.
Matt Marks was a founding member of the pantry. After graduating with a broadcast journalism degree in 2018, Marks began graduate school in the adult and higher education program with an emphasis in intercollegiate athletic administration.
His desire to remain involved with the pantry led him to the graduate director role, in which he works with 11 fellow students who coordinate marketing and public relations, volunteers, operations, and donations. Additionally, a steering committee of faculty and staff from across campus works closely with the student staff.
“I really loved the experience, the community building, and the relationships that we built with the community and the students here, so I wanted that to continue on in grad school and continue to build this up to make this pantry as great as it can be,” Marks explained.
“It has been a community effort to take care of this community."
- Matt Marks
While reflecting on the past few years, Marks said it is “incredible to see where we started” and look at how the pantry has grown. Not only has the pantry continued to help more people but the location itself has also changed, transforming into a welcoming space with painted walls and new shelving, which members of the OU community helped decorate and assemble.
“It has been a community effort to take care of this community,” Marks shared.
Since the OU Food Pantry has open, it has received positive feedback and support from people not just in Norman but also across the nation from people who want to donate, be involved, and see it grow. The OU community has been eager to lend a hand at the pantry, with a running list of more than 300 people who want to volunteer. Marks added that volunteering or joining the student staff is a great volunteer avenue for students who want to work in nonprofits or just do community service. Plus, “it really does make a different on our campus,” Marks said.
“We’re here for every student, staff, and faculty member,” Marks stated. “There should be no shame dealing with food insecurity or hunger. It is just part of life, and we want to be able to help. One thing that we take pride in is I feel like we’re kind of pushing back that stigma of food insecurity and hunger and showing that there shouldn’t be any shame with it.
“We have great staff that when people walk in, we have a friendly face welcoming them,” Marks continued. “We’ve built those relationships so every week it’s just like, ‘Hey, how are you doing?” We’re carrying on a conversation, and there’s that friendship there. We just don’t want anyone at OU to worry about where their next meal going to come from.”