SHOP set to receive tax-exempt status

Students Helping Our Peers (SHOP) is set to receive an assist in the food pantry's battle against food insecurity among Iowa State students.

Last summer's move from the Food Sciences Building to 1306 Beyer Hall added needed space and helped the push to gain 501(c)(3) status, making it a tax exempt nonprofit.

"There is an agreement put in place between the ISU Foundation and the university that the foundation will serve as a 501(c)(3) on behalf of the SHOP, which is a student organization," said SHOP advisor Breanna Wetzler, marketing specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

As a nonprofit, SHOP can access more grants and partner with the Food Bank of Iowa to buy food at a lower price per pound, student wellness dietitian Lisa Nolting said. The partnership means a larger selection of food and the hope it takes away some worry for students.

SHOP locations

  • 1306 Beyer Hall, open Tuesday and Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Wednesday 4 p.m.-7 p.m.
  • SUV Community Center, open Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Frederiksen Court, closed due to COVID-19

"Last fall, the students who volunteer at SHOP and our partners in student wellness really worked to come up with what items would fill a student's pantry in terms of likes, dietary needs and dietary preferences," Wetzler said.

After final details between the foundation and SHOP are worked out, there are numerous steps to take before offerings from the food bank can arrive.

"Late summer is our tentative timeline," Nolting said.

The details

With the increase in food comes stricter training as student volunteers will handle perishable and nonperishable items.  The addition of refrigeration and freezers allowed the first perishable items to be stocked around winter break. All volunteers must complete food-safety training provided by the Food Bank of Iowa.

"There are a lot of volunteers and a lot who may just do four hours of volunteering a semester to fulfill a course requirement," Nolting said. "It is getting a system in place to manage the volunteer base, but also how to know who has taken the training and who still needs to."

The partnership eliminates the need for students to go to stores to purchase food and bring it back to SHOP. Purchasing is done online, with deliveries arriving once or twice a month.

That likely will require a pallet jack and more people to unload and properly store food.

"Because we are a student-run pantry, we don't have that same person overseeing things every year," Nolting said. "That means we need to figure out how best to train new people to know best practices."

Anonymity a priority

One thing SHOP, which is celebrating its 10th year, prides itself on is anonymity for users to help end the stigma of food pantries.

The Food Bank of Iowa receives several items through the Department of Agriculture (USDA), but SHOP has decided not to accept those items at this time.

"In order for someone to come into the pantry and get some of those USDA items, they have to sign off on a document declaring they are financially eligible to receive them," Nolting said.

Filling a need

SHOP is available to students regardless of whether they live on campus or have a meal plan. Food insecurity is common on campuses across the nation, and the pandemic has increased the need for pantries.

Nationwide, the USDA estimates 36-38% of all college students are food insecure. In 2019, the national college health assessment estimated 24% of Iowa State students are food insecure, Nolting said.

Wetzler said the 501(c)(3) designation will benefit SHOP greatly, but the need for food and money donations remains.

Assistance from employee team

SHOP also is receiving assistance from a group within the 2020-21 Emerging Leaders Academy. Every spring, small teams from the academy each identify a project that improves the university and has a sustained impact.

"We wanted to help SHOP and in the process raise awareness of food insecurity among students," said Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and a member of the project team.

For the month of March, the group organized a crowdfunding campaign through the ISU Foundation to raise $4,000 to purchase a commercial refrigerator and expand food storage for SHOP.

Kedrowski said team members will publicize it as widely as they can, including with alumni. She said they have asked several university officers and student leaders to endorse the project and are collecting short video messages from each of them.

The group working on the project is:

  • Karen Kedrowski, director, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics
  • Brian Vanderheyden, director, student wellness 
  • Tim Shepherd, associate teaching professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering  
  • Elyse Davis, intern, Catt Center
  • Sarah Adams, undergraduate recruitment coordinator, Ivy College of Business
  • Rita Phillips, director, ISU Book Store
  • Rachel Vos Carrillo, program manager, human development and family studies
  • Austin Viall, associate professor, veterinary pathology