Julia Lyon, a senior biology major from Fulbright College and Honors College member, serves as student president of the University of Arkansas’ Full Circle Food Pantry. The food pantry, designed specifically to meet the needs of the U of A community, has grown exponentially over the past year to provide food and personal items for university students, staff members and their families. Student volunteers, who each put in at least two hours a week, have been able to meet 887 requests since the pantry’s grand opening in February of 2011. More than 150 requests were filled in the last month alone. Julia sees the food pantry as a collaborative effort. She puts in at least 10 hours of service a week and her hard work has not gone unnoticed. Julia was recently featured in USA Today’s Campus Food Banks article and has been nominated for the Campus Champions of Change award from the White House! Follow this link to cast your vote!
Question: Why did you choose to get involved with Full Circle?
Answer: Really, it kind of just fell on my shoulders. We talked about the project at the VAC [Volunteer Action Committee] meetings early in the year. I think I was probably more vocal or more gung-ho than some of the other members, and so I was asked to head it up! I’d worked in food pantries before, but nothing like this, maybe two or three hours a week in the summer. I just enjoy volunteering. I like to work hard. I like to be busy. I like this program because it’s completely student-run. I like that my committee makes the majority of the decisions. We get to decide how things are going to work and then implement them.
Question: What does your job as a student volunteer entail?
Answer: I basically run the pantry. I’m in charge of making sure the shelves are stocked, that things are running smoothly. I have a wonderful committee with a donations coordinator who handles things when someone gives us money, and a volunteer coordinator to make sure that everyone who volunteers shows up, so really I don’t have to worry about those things. We’re working with the same people every week. Students put in two hours each week at the same time and I think that helps. People generally come in at the same time to pick up donations and they see the same faces. They are comfortable here.
Question: What has been your most rewarding experience with the food pantry?
Answer: I think the best thing that I’ve seen since I’ve been here is this one student, who I don’t know personally, who once a month, maybe twice a month, comes in with a sack full of groceries and sets it down on the counter. I love that. I think that’s awesome. We used to write him a thank you note, because we keep track of our donors, but he doesn’t want a thank you note. He doesn’t do it for that and I think that’s really stunning. It’s exactly what we’re here for. I like that it’s a student giving to other students.
Question: Are there any long-term goals for the food pantry?
Answer: We’re hoping to set an endowment for the food pantry. That would be great. Other than that, someone has mentioned having clothing in this space. I don’t know that we have the space for it really, but I think it’d be fantastic. We could probably do a small program like that. But I feel like we’re in a good place. It’s a well-established program that’s here to stay.
Question: You’re a senior this year. What’s the next step for you?
Answer: I’ll graduate in May, and I’m starting at UAMS [University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences in Little Rock] in August. I don’t plan on being affiliated with Full Circle at all, we’ve done our elections for new officers and everything and those students will step up and run this. Really, during my first year of medical school I hope that I’ll be able to volunteer, but who knows how that will go. There’s a program at Children’s Hospital that I would love to get involved with, maybe an hour or two a week, but even that sort of scares me. What if I have tests? I think it will be the same as when I moved from high school to college. You stop all your extracurricular activities, but you find new ones. It all works out.