A campus challenge among academic departments at Fort Hays State University is helping members of the Tiger family during a time of need.


Led by a $250 inaugural donation to the university’s Food and Hunger Initiatives, the program will begin the 2020-21 school year with a larger starting fund than normal – instead of smaller, as was originally feared.


The Department of Political Science got the challenge started during a department Zoom meeting near the end of the spring semester when Assistant Professor Christopher Olds suggested a way of honoring its 2020 graduates could be a donation to a food bank.


"We believe in community outreach and fortifying our campus community as well as our Hays community," said Krissy Allacher, senior administrative assistant for the department. "What better way to do that than to help out our own food bank on campus."


In honor of its 41 graduates – including on campus and online, bachelor’s and master’s – the department made the initial donation, then went a step further, challenging the other 30 departments to match or exceed its contribution.


Allacher posted the challenge on university social media and its daily campus news bulletin.


The Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship donated $1,500 in honor of all six of its departments (four academic units plus its MBA and international program). To date, three other departments – English, criminal justice and philosophy – have also made donations, and the Office of the Provost made a pledge as well.


Dr. Larry Gould, chair of the political science department, said the initial donation was a way of keeping to the brand of his department: Political Thinking for the Greater Good.


"We don’t think about politics in general; we think about politics with a purpose," he said. "It’s all about thinking about the larger society, not just thinking about yourself."


The Food and Hunger Initiatives is a two-part program, the Tiger Food Exchange (food pantry) and Victor E. Garden (vegetable garden). They are both available to all FHSU students, faculty and staff.


The food pantry, normally housed in Forsyth Library, includes canned and packaged goods. The garden provides a wide variety of fresh vegetables, including potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.


Both the pantry and the garden are maintained by students under the guidance of Dr. Peter Tramel, assistant professor of philosophy, and Bob Duffy, drug and alcohol counselor at the Kelly Center. Vegetables are harvested regularly and brought to the food pantry.


Since COVID-19, the pantry has been temporarily moved to the Meadowlark Room on the first floor of the Memorial Union. Its hours are 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It was open all through the pandemic lockdown and hopes to move back to Forsyth Library by the start of the fall semester.


The Food and Hunger Initiatives receives funding through student fees each year, but Duffy said the donation contest will definitely help out the program’s operating expenses, as well as provide some money for purchasing new tools for the garden.


"This was such a great idea," Duffy said. "We had purposely lowered our stock when we had to move locations and didn’t have access to as much storage or a large refrigerator/freezer. This year, we may be purchasing more food than we have in the past, so these donations are going to help out tremendously."


In addition to the department challenge, individuals also can make donations to FHSU’s Food and Hunger Initiatives. Any questions should be directed to Teresa Hammerschmidt at the FHSU Foundation at 785-628-5624. To learn more about the Food and Hunger Initiatives, visit fhsu.edu/food-and-hunger/.