Starting this Thanksgiving break, the Division of Student Affairs will implement the Source, an on-campus food resource that will provide students staying over breaks with access to food and non-perishable items in lieu of meal stipends. Over breaks during which Peirce is closed, it will be accessible by students who apply and demonstrate financial need, who will be able to access the Source via K-card. The Source will also be accessible to students fasting during the month of Ramadan.
In the past, Kenyon has provided qualifying students who stay on campus over breaks with a stipend to purchase food. Students in need were responsible for applying for this stipend themselves, which was originally $50 per week. Last year, the College raised the stipend to $75, with the intention of raising it to $100 this year. Instead of raising the stipend further, Kenyon will discontinue meal stipends in favor of the Source, which will be located on the third floor of Peirce Dining Hall in rooms 312 and 314.
The creation of the Source was spearheaded by Dean of Student Development Robin Hart Ruthenbeck after issues were raised within the division regarding the financial limitations of stipends, the inaccessibility of off-campus travel to purchase food and the growing cost of groceries at places like the Village Market. “There were increasing numbers of students that were requesting financial support over breaks when Peirce is closed. With increasing numbers of students requesting support, that also meant that we had to say ‘no’ to students who I know would have benefited, but we had limited resources,” she said.
During the month of Ramadan, it will also be accessible to fasting students who cannot eat at Peirce during AVI’s typical serving hours, as several students last year had difficulties accessing food after Peirce was closed. “Our challenge was ensuring that they have a secure place where the food that was set aside for them would still be accessible at the end of the day and not be taken,” Hart Ruthenbeck said.
The Source was ultimately created to serve a broader range of students by redirecting resources to a central location on campus. Along with fresh produce and perishable items, it will also include plant-based proteins and other food options to allow students with dietary needs or restrictions to use it.
The Source will collaborate with Center of Hope, a central Ohio foodbank that the Division of Student Affairs has previously worked with, to stock the location. “[Center of Hope] track[s] what things are most popular and what things are less popular with different demographics. We know what things are most in demand from people who utilized those resources over the summer,” Hart Ruthenbeck said.
The tentative plan is for the Source to operate on an honor system, where students will be able to access it and take whatever they need, though this is subject to change. Hart Ruthenbeck will be monitoring the Source over the upcoming Thanksgiving break to ensure that resources are not depleted as well as to prevent food waste. “Students will be given one of two days to come and shop, which will give us an opportunity to restock what might need to be stocked during those two days,” she said. “We don’t want to bring in an overage of anything that will then go to waste.”
The second component of the Source is a separate location that will hold non-food items, particularly winter outerwear, personal sanitary and hygiene products, laundry detergent, school supplies, dorm supplies and more. The Division of Student Affairs will work closely with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) along with the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) to gather resources.
“ODEI and the CGE have asked members of the community if they had gently-used coats, hats, scarves, whatever outerwear that they were willing to donate,” said Hart Ruthenbeck. “We know what the demand has been like over the last few years, but we also know that those supplies likely have been somewhat depleted.” The Division of Student Affairs will have a separate budget that will go towards buying new clothing items from local areas for students.
These clothing resources will be open year-round to students in need.
“It’s difficult to ask for help. We want people to be able to maintain dignity, to have the things they need and to have choices in their options. There’s room for choice, autonomy and dignity,” Hart Ruthenbeck said.
Furthermore, she stressed the importance of recognizing the different walks of life that Kenyon students come from and the varying levels of financial privilege on campus. “There’s a particular narrative about who Kenyon students are. Absolutely there are some that come from greater privilege than others, but we need to make sure that just because someone is wearing a sweatshirt that says Kenyon across it, we don’t make assumptions about what their story is,” said Hart Ruthenbeck.
With 65% of Kenyon students receiving some form of financial aid and 43% of students receiving need-based financial aid as of 2021, many students over upcoming breaks will hopefully benefit from the implementation of the Source. Hart Ruthenbeck hopes that the Source will reduce some of the past issues with meal stipends over breaks and will provide students in need with a centralized location for resources.
“That is the goal of the Source,” Hart Ruthenbeck said. “Funding that would have ordinarily gone to providing a check will instead go to providing the actual food products to a wider number of people, in ways that help them better meet their needs.” Students staying on campus during the upcoming Thanksgiving break who are in financial need will have the opportunity to use the Source in action for the first time.