University, Foundation Partner in Fight To End Student Hunger

FAIRMONT (AP) — Hoping to end student hunger on campus once and for all, Fairmont State University and Aladdin Food Services have partnered with the Wesley Foundation to provide hungry students with three or four hot lunches every week.

The Wesley Foundation, which sits right across the street from Fairmont State on Locust Avenue, has been serving hungry students for years. However, a recent initiative has nearly tripled the meals offered by the ministry, according to Wesley Foundation Campus Minister Maria Wiblin.

“Up until this year, we had done it every Thursday and every second and fourth Tuesday, but this year, we’ve started to expand it,” Wiblin said. “We do it every Monday, Thursday and Friday and every second and fourth Tuesday.”

Wiblin said the increase in lunches is due to the school’s partnership with Aladdin Food Services and the university’s newest president, Dr. Mirta Martin.

“Dr. Martin is very concerned about the hunger on campus and the fact that we have students who are going hungry,” Wiblin said. “They are not getting the three meals a day that they need, and without those three meals a day, they can’t be expected to study and do their best in school. That was the impetus for expanding it.”

Martin said she recognized a hunger problem during her first few weeks as Fairmont State’s president earlier this year.

“I had probably what would be a parade of students coming into my office crying because they didn’t have money to make payments and they didn’t have money to feed their children,” Martin said. “What I realized is that we live in a very affluent and very beautiful area here in North Central West Virginia, but there’s still an awful lot of hunger and an awful lot of poverty in our students.

“Our unofficial slogan is ‘Welcome Home,’ and if we’re going to welcome home students, we need to do right by that. We got together and brainstormed on how to bring together a Falcon Meals on Wheels of sorts, and this is how that came around,” Martin said.

According to a release from the university, Aladdin donates more than 100 pounds of food to the Wesley Foundation each week, including chicken, pork, green beans and salad. On Thursdays, volunteers from local churches cook meals for the students.

Wiblin said currently, the foundation is serving lunch to an average of 60 kids each day. By the end of each semester, Wiblin said the number increases to around 100 different students for each lunch.

“It’s an awesome feeling, and the kids are grateful,” Wiblin said. “They don’t leave here without saying ‘Thank you.’ . The awesome feeling is just knowing that they can eat and have what they need.

“We don’t think about hunger on college campuses. We assume that our college kids have food to eat, but some don’t.”

When asked why taking care of the students in this way is so important, Martin said the community must come together and help out its own if it truly wants to succeed, and referred to an old proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.

“We are that village to our students,” Martin said. “When we give, it comes back tenfold. All data suggests that students who are hungry cannot perform. If they can’t perform, they can’t study and graduate. If they can’t graduate, they will not be able to maximize potential and be a part of the economic engine. It’s our time to pass it forward.”

Those looking to donate food to the Wesley Foundation can deliver it in person at 1224 Locust Ave. For more information, email maria.wiblin@gmail.com.