Hunger Free on the campus of Misericordia University
Misericordia University designated as a PA Hunger-Free+ Campus
Misericordia University now has the designation of being a PA Hunger-Free+ Campus due to the hard work of Kristin Kuntzman, MS, OTR/L ‘20, Coordinator for Service and Social Justice, that will impact students who face hunger while attending school.
Being able to apply for the PA Hunger-Free+ Campus designation is because of the on-campus food pantry that Kuntzman started when she was still a Misericordia student. Kuntzman also applied for the designation as she addresses the basic needs of hunger and raises awareness among students with equity, inclusion, and belonging.
“We applied for the hunger-free designation because it aligns with our values and hope for our community. It equips us with resources to help our students, and gives us opportunities to apply for more grants in the future, said Kuntzman. She explains that “40% of college students will experience food insecurity, which is just not okay.”
As a student, Kuntzman was heavily involved in the Campus Ministry office, now the Mission, Ministry and Service office. Being a Mercy Leader and leading many retreats, she was always engaged in service on campus. One service opportunity would change her and lead to the creation of the on-campus food pantry. “One of my favorite service opportunities was dinners for kids. As students, we paired up with a community volunteer, and we would deliver the dinners to the Dallas Community. This was a foundational experience for me, realizing that I did not know what true hunger was and that there were people in my direct community who did. It started my wondering about what hunger looked like in our campus community, and I started some personal research about food insecurity on college campuses,” said Kuntzman.
Taken aback by her research findings, she saw many students often face hunger issues and knew she had to do something about it. A senior at the time, Kuntzman was embraced by the Misericordia community, and the task force created found food insecurity on the Misericordia campus. Knowing she would be graduating soon, she was highly concerned she had started something that could not be continued. Chris Somers D. Min, M.S.W, director, Mission, Ministry and Service, and Lindsey Riddell, MS assistant director, Mission, Ministry, & Service, would take on what is now the market. The pantry opened in January 2019 with Kuntzman and would continue even after she graduated. Riddell was able to keep running the market throughout COVID and increased the accessibility of the market through the usage of google forms and a pick-up system.
Kuntzman would join the team in August 2022 and be able to take the market back. To her, she is now in a job where she can genuinely impact students who are facing hunger. She ensures that students do not feel alone and that her office is a safe space where she can break the stigmas often associated with hunger. “It is truly something I hold very closely and am so excited to continue to grow. I try to keep their dignity as a person held safely. I want the students to use the pantry. I want them to feel like they have a community surrounding them and that they are supported and empowered.”
Moving forward, Kuntzman is working hard to move into a bigger space. The office is also working with King’s College, which graciously extended a grant that will allow them to purchase a freezer. In the future, with the purchase of a freezer and adding more shelving, the market will increase options for the students creating a space that students can access without fear of judgment. They also hope to add a microwave and coffee maker to offer hospitality and warmth, just like Misericordia’s charisms.
For more information, Kristin Kuntzman can be contacted by email or phone at 570-674-6313.