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Blue Ridge Campus students can get 'Lunch in a Crunch'

April 21, 2021

With the opening of a food pantry in fall 2020, students at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Blue Ridge Campus gained access to items that could assist them at home throughout their week. Before long, Anna Speessen realized another opportunity. Students needed self-service options for meals throughout the day between classes.

Speessen, coordinator of Academic Success Services on the Blue Ridge Campus, enlisted people to stock items such as soup, noodles, tuna and snacks. Rather than leave campus or select items from a vending machine because the campus does not have Dining Services, students have options through the "Lunch in a Crunch" closet.

"If you're hungry in class, you can't focus on your academics," Speessen said. "Students can come in and take what they need. It keeps them here and it keeps money in their pocket."

In February, 34 students took advantage of Lunch in a Crunch, and 27 students used it in March.

"As a college student who has their own place, it can be difficult to afford and stop for lunch because I go directly to work after my classes," said Alyssa Acevedo, a freshman from East Ellijay, Georgia, pursuing a degree in biology. "The Lunch in a Crunch closet allows me to have a lunch to get through the rest of my busy day."

Three alumni and their spouses along with the nonprofit Feed Fannin have made Lunch in a Crunch a reality. The new program and all food pantries at UNG are supported strictly through donations.

Fannin County residents Mike and Sally Masters, Gary and Delores Masters, and Mike and Robin Higley first discovered the need from Sandy Ott, Blue Ridge Campus director, when they toured the new campus.

"It's humbling to see that the opportunity's there and we're able to help out a little bit," said Mike Higley, '80. "The energy and the attitude from Sandy and Anna is contagious. They helped communicate and educate alumni about ways to help."

Mike Masters, '83, and the others ask Ott and Speessen each month what supplies they need to keep Lunch in a Crunch stocked.

"We were very impressed with how much the Blue Ridge Campus is a community facility," Mike Masters said. "When you realize there are people in your community not having enough to eat, it hits close to home."

Feed Fannin uses its mass purchasing power to benefit UNG. For every dollar Feed Fannin spends, it gets $8 worth of retail groceries.

Priscilla Cashman, vice chair of Feed Fannin and liaison to the UNG Food Pantry, said the all-volunteer group appreciates the opportunity to stock the food pantry and assist with Lunch in a Crunch.

"We understand the needs of these students and their financial challenges, and we're always ready to give a hand up," Cashman said. "That's our mission."

The alumni and Feed Fannin have impressed Ott with their enthusiasm.

"Their heart is to make a difference for students," Ott said. "It's overwhelming."

Though the Lunch in a Crunch is a new effort, UNG Food Pantry locations on all five campuses provide non-perishable food items and basic supplies to students, staff and faculty in need.

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