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Jackson State’s Tiger Pantry Supports Food-Insecure Students

Shonda DeVerteuil with a donor
Shonda DeVerteuil, pictured (left) with Chelsea Presley (right) from the Diaper Bank of the Delta, is the associate director of housing operations at Jackson State University. DeVerteuil said on Nov. 16, 2023, that JSU’s Tiger Pantry relies on donations from individuals, major corporations, schools and churches. Photo courtesy Jackson State University

Most former students can think back to their time in college and remember the dreaded early morning classes, late nights of cramming for exams and interesting roommate experiences. But some students had an added stressor to worry about: food insecurity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

Food insecurity affects students on college campuses around the country. Researchers at Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice conducted a study in 2020 in which they found that nearly 40% of HBCU students face food insecurity during their time in college.

“Compared to the national average, students enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and most other types of Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) experience higher levels of food insecurity,” the study says. “Nearly 2 in 5 undergraduate students at HBCUs (38.8%) and more than 1 in 3 students at TCUs (35.5%) report food insecurity.”

Tiger Food Pantry sign on door
Jackson State University’s Tiger Pantry is a free resource that provides food and sometimes toiletries and personal-care items to students in need. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

The Hope Center similarly found and reported high levels of basic needs insecurity among the 14 HBCUs and approximately 5,000 HBCU students who participated in its fall 2020 survey.

One common way colleges support students struggling to balance the costs of college and feeding themselves is through on-campus food pantries.

JSU Associate Director of Housing Operations Shonda DeVerteuil, who runs the on-campus Tiger Pantry, wants to eliminate situations where students are forced to choose between paying for college necessities and eating.

“This is the thing that softens my heart and makes me feel really good,” DeVerteuil said on Nov. 16. “I know the pantry is a resource that helps these students. Sometimes you’re studying and you might need that popcorn or whatever to nibble on so that you can focus on your studies.”

Tiger Pantry banner over kitchen
The Tiger Pantry at Jackson State University has supported students who struggle to balance affording college necessities and affording groceries. The pantry began providing the services in 2017. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Since 2017, JSU’s Tiger Pantry has provided not only food to students but also toiletries and personal-hygiene items like deodorant, toothpaste, tampons, shaving cream and hair care products when available. They also try to accommodate students who may have special dietary needs.

Every seven days students in need may fill out an online form requesting items and subsequently pick up their orders at the pantry. All items are totally free to students but DeVerteuil emphasized that those running the facility inspect the items for quality.

“It’s not a situation where people are just cleaning out their cabinets and bringing in canned goods,” she said. DeVerteuil provides prospective donors with a list of the pantry’s needs. Churches, businesses and individuals have kept the pantry stocked since its inception.

The Tiger Pantry also receives grants from major corporations to fund its operations.

Tampons at the Tiger Pantry
JSU’s Tiger Pantry provides students with not only food but also personal-hygiene items and toiletries like tampons, toothpaste and deodorant. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad.

PepsiCo announced on Nov. 2 that Jackson State University is one of five historically Black colleges and universities receiving a $50,000 grant to combat food insecurity on campus. The award is part of PepsiCo’s ongoing efforts to fund and elevate HBCUs. Morgan State University, Prairie View A&M University, Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University are also recipients of the grant.

“Our donation to tackle food insecurity is another example of our commitment to empower students and ensure their success in every aspect of their educational journey,” PepsiCo Senior Vice President of Industry Relations and Multicultural Development Kent Montgomery said in a press release on Nov. 2.

Colleges awarded the grant can use the funds to cover meal plans for homeless students, meal-prepping workshops and cooking classes, stipends for students who work at the on-campus pantries and more.

Pantry staff member packing order into bag
Students fill out an online form to make their Tiger Pantry order. Options are dependent on what donations are in stock at the time. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

In addition to DeVerteuil, JSU students operate the Tiger Pantry, which the faculty member says helps students feel more comfortable about using the resource. More than 400 students had used the Tiger Pantry during the fall semester as of mid-November.

“Sometimes I’ll hear a student outside say, ‘Hold on, I need to go pick up my order from the food pantry.’ I know that it’s beneficial to them because of the results that we’re seeing,” she said.

If you want to donate to JSU’s Tiger Pantry, you can give through the Jackson State University Development Foundation and specify that you want your donation to go to the Tiger Food Pantry or contact Shonda DeVerteuil directly by calling 601-979-4302 or by emailing

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