Zags Respond to Community Food Insecurity and More

Annie Wissmiller speaks in the greenhouse

May 11, 2020
Dale Goodwin ('86)

Not surprising, Gonzaga is reaching out in big and poignant ways, on campus and to the greater community, to assist those most in need. Here are just a few examples:

Thanks to an anonymous donor, Emily Banick with Campus Kitchen and Sodexo’s Pat Clelland and his crew are providing nearly 1,000 meals and over 100 pounds of Gonzaga greenhouse lettuce each week to adults in Northeast Spokane, at John R. Rogers High School and Logan Elementary School. These are meals available to any adult and are distributed alongside the Spokane Public Schools free meals for children and youth. In addition, Clelland sees students receiving takeout meals at the COG using their discretionary swipes for college mates who might be suffering from food insecurity.

Cura Personalis Case Manager Sean Joy sees this as one of this pandemic’s real issues for some Gonzaga students. CCP and GUEST collaborate to identify solutions related to access to food for students with the highest needs. CCP, in a joint venture with Student Financial Services, sustains an emergency fund that a Gonzaga student can use once during their time at GU, for a $250 gift card to Safeway.

In addition, Joy tracks free services available in Gonzaga’s major feeder areas, like Portland and the Bay Area, to share with students in need.

Meanwhile, Student Financial Services/ Student Accounts’ Nodia Rogers partnered with Cura Personalis’ Nicola Mannetter to send a mailing to 600 Gonzaga students on federal work study who may qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e. food stamps) based on their work-study status. The letter outlined steps for students to see if they qualify for food assistance.

One of Molly Ayers’ Community Engagement’s AmeriCorps volunteers is working at Second Harvest Food Bank to support mobile food banks providing food to families throughout the county. She has been a part of an effort to distribute 5 million pounds of food over the past month. A second AmeriCoprs member is supporting meal distribution and delivery to Rogers and Shaw.

Charlie Pepiton and costume designer Kim Heide just finished making 200 facemasks that will be distributed to organizations such as the Arc of Spokane. In addition to supporting food distribution across Northeast Spokane, the Center for Community Engagement is working with campus partners to acquire hygiene items and needed supplies for school and non-profit partners.

While Sodexo donates everything it grows in the Hemmingson greenhouse to the adult meal distribution effort, Banick is readying her Campus Kitchen garden to plant and donate produce to the community, as is Jim Simon with the Sustainability Garden, Ayers says.

multi-colored carrots in a pile

Housing and Residence Life Director Jon Wheeler has tirelessly crisscrossed campus in protective gear, packing up essential belongings for students who couldn’t make it back to their residence halls. “He has done this with grace and humility, and never grumbles,” reports his assistant, Jared Payton. “I appreciate his servant’s heart.”

Alumni Relations Regional Chapters Director Drew Rieder has had to pivot on all spring alumni events, including retreats, yoga, happy hours, movie watches and more, making many of these events possible in virtual mode, says Crissy Byers, associate director of alumni events. He has encouraged chapter leaders to connect with the class of 2020 in their regions and keep them connected, and rounded up care package items and information for those students, “while always reminding us that every day is one day closer to the end,” of this calamity, Byers says.

Lending a Green Thumb

Annie Wissmiller, who graduated in December, spent a year-and-a-half working for Sodexo in the hydroponic greenhouse at Hemmingson Center. She recently got a full-time job working for the Spokane Indians Baseball Club, which encourages its employees to volunteer in the community.

Her love of gardening without soil drew her back. When the pandemic hit, she asked Sodexo Resident District Manager Pat Clelland if he could use some volunteer help. Never one to turn down a virtually outstretched hand, Clelland welcomed Wissmiller into the ranks of the greenhouse operation.

Today she is growing in excess of 100 pounds of lettuce per week with a limited Zag Dining crew, which is being donated to families in Northeast Spokane. She’s also growing 700 tomato plants, which are being given to Logan neighbors so that they can continue to grow their own food.

She couldn’t be happier returning to her roots at Gonzaga, with a Sodexo staff that bonds together doing a good service for others. Boss Pat Clelland notes, “Annie is paying it forward and living Gonzaga’s mission for sure.” It’s the Zag Way.

Read more stories about Zags in action during COVID-19.