Food drive benefits ECU students

Volunteers with ECU’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and the College of Engineering and Technology load a van with donated food for ECU’s Purple Pantry at St. Peter’s Catholic School. (Photos by Ken Buday)

Students and staff in ECU’s industrial distribution and logistics program have been busy in the Student Service Learning Lab thanks to food donated to the Purple Pantry through a food drive by St. Peter Catholic School in Greenville.

Conducted during Catholic Schools Week, the food drive was a competition among classes and produced 12,800 donated food items that were distributed to various soup kitchens and food pantries in the Greenville area. The Purple Pantry, which helps ECU students with food insecurities, received 2,100 pounds of food.

“We know the needs in our community are greater because of the pandemic, and our students and families really took that to heart,” Principal Joan Alexander said.

Staff with the Purple Pantry and the IDIS program picked up bags of food from the school and transported them to the lab in the Science and Technology Building, where the food is counted, categorized and stored for later distribution through the Purple Pantry. The lab acts as a food bank for the pantry and provides students seeking degrees in industrial distribution and logistics a real-world environment in which to learn. Students run the lab much like any distribution center they would encounter in business and industry.

Food is carried into the Student Service Learning Lab.

Lauren Howard, assistant director for ECU’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, said the COVID-19 pandemic has not decreased the need for food among ECU students.

The pantry in the Main Campus Student Center is open 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-5 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. A new Mini Purple Pantry box on the walkway between the Old Cafeteria Building and Joyner Library offers ready-to-eat items 24 hours a day. The food is free to ECU students.

Students in need of food can also request a Pirate Pack, a reusable bag of 10 to 15 pounds of food and hygiene items, through the Engage platform. The bags can be picked up from 9 a.m. to noon each Wednesday.

For those wanting to donate or volunteer, or for those wanting information about the Purple Pantry, email or call 252-737-1669. Donations can also be made through the pantry’s Amazon Wishlist.

– By Ken Buday