Written on: February 28, 2017
For 10 of the last 12 years I have had the wonderful opportunity to work as a College Campus Minister in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina. Our diocese is still listed as a “mission diocese” with the Catholic Extension Society. I do outreach with 4 different colleges/universities but most of my time is spent at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. (Spartans)
Since I have been back in Greensboro I have learned a number of things that have surprised me. For example: In the Spring of 2015 Greensboro was listed as the #1 most food insecure city in the nation! Greensboro is already facing the most severe hunger issues in the nation and having thousands of new people move here every year to attend college puts extra stress on the food assistance organizations feeding the rest of Greensboro.
After realizing how large the need truly was on our own campus, we found that many Spartans using the SOP were receiving their entire diet from the pantry. While canned food helps to alleviate hunger it does not provide the nutritional value for a full diet.
Fresh food is expensive and rarely gets donated. The best way to get fresh and healthy food to our neighbors is to grow it. The first garden site, Minerva’s Garden, was planted on campus in August of 2014. Minerva’s Garden is behind the Associated Campus Ministries (ACM) building, where my office is located. The goals for this garden are;
Minerva’s Garden does not get a full day of sun because it is tucked between two buildings. That does mean some extra planning on our part to make sure we get seeds for plants that can grow in these conditions. Minerva’s Garden began producing in Spring 2015. Two additional garden sites have since been established.
Many Catholic UNCG students take advantage of the Pantry each month and are very grateful for the assistance. While this project is managed by our friends at Wesley-Luther Campus Ministry, Catholic Campus Ministry tries to support the endeavor with some financial, food and student labor assistance when needed.
In 2016, the Spartan Open Pantry distributed over 11,000 pounds of food.
Sister Eileen Spanier has found her life’s work among College students in the Diocese of Charlotte. She has gone wherever there has been a great need, most recently to Greensboro, NC. Thank you, Sister, for sharing your gifts and your ministry so lovingly with so many!