The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Special Report Food Security

What is the need on campus?

Students’ effort to assist peers through a food pantry

Thomas Rosenberger and Alec Admonius

Thomas Rosenberger, left, and Alec Admonius carry groceries into the new campus food pantry.

Millennials. Some call them the Me Me Me Generation, always quantifying themselves with selfies and tweets, overinflated with self-esteem. These sweeping characterizations rarely tell an accurate story.

Such is the case with Thomas Rosenberger, a 2016 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and economics from Fisher College of Business. He’s a millennial, but he personifies the social integrity for which the generation also is known. His is a fight to mitigate food insecurity on campus, where most people don’t realize it exists.

In reality, 15 percent of Ohio State students reported “very low” food security in a recent wellness assessment conducted by the Center for the Study of Student Life.

Rosenberger and some friends founded the Buckeye Food Alliance (BFA) in 2014 after he read about the prevalence of hunger among college students. He’d always volunteered his service for various causes, but this issue felt particularly salient; these were his peers.

The nonprofit BFA opened the university’s first food pantry in March, operating out of Lincoln Tower. Students in need can visit the pantry for canned vegetables and fruit, proteins and zip-close bags containing soup ingredients courtesy of the student advocacy group Buckeyes Against Hunger. Residence hall and community food drives help stock the pantry.

Rosenberger says food-insecure students are more likely to be first-generation, minority or nontraditional students, such as those trying to work, take classes and raise a family. Even for people receiving federal student assistance, there is a several-thousand-dollar gap between financial-aid packages and total expenses.

“So many of us are one crisis away from needing this,” Rosenberger says, nodding to the shelves of perishables. “I didn’t intend to start a food pantry, but there wasn’t another [resource] to support the students in need.”

Rosenberger is building awareness of the pantry by informing at-risk populations. His efforts are complicated because food-insecure students often hide their hunger due to perceived stigma.

Rosenberger’s plan is to integrate graduate students from the College of Social Work to connect pantry clients with other benefits.

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