The Lion Co-Op has been assisting students with food insecurities and providing a safe and open environment for a year now.
“This place is bright and welcoming. It reminds us of a real grocery store, and makes students feel comfortable,” said Chrislynn Powers, Co-Op intern and junior social work major.
Since its opening last fall, the non-profit has had a growth in visitors averaging on 40 to 50 per week. Surveys by the Co-Op show that the majority of clients are international students that live on campus, due to lack of finances and personal transportation.
In order to continue providing access to these students, the Co-Op is extending hours on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon
Initially, the Co-op was limited to providing nonperishable items exclusively, however, they recently installed a deep freezer and two refrigerators to keep dairy and perishable food. They also are providing information on other resources as well.
“If students have any questions, we can provide flyers and explain where students in need can get hot meals outside the campus,” said Powers.
The most recent challenge for this organization is being stocked up on popular items like milk, toilet paper, yogurt and cheese.
“We don’t put any limit on items, which means that people can take many. This is why we need to restock often,” said Powers.
These services are available for anyone who is associated with Missouri Southern including students, faculty, staff and the Lion Cub Academy.
“We try to make this as welcoming as possible and we don’t put any stereotypes, we understand that anyone can have struggled at a certain point of their lives,” said Powers.
The Lion Co-Op provides personal hygiene and food items when needed, and also offers an opportunity for community members to volunteer and help others.
According to Dr. Andrea Cullers, associate professor of kinesiology, a new service-learning course has been introduced, as well as two interns from the social work program to assist in helping students.
“We try to promote our services during Third Thursdays as well as during the Community Day, now campus residents are more aware of this place, they know where it’s located and who is the target,” said Powers.
In the future, Co-Op members are working with an engineering technology course on organizing shelves and inventory planning. Their goal is to continue to expand the academic opportunities for students to be involved in the Co-Op, as well as to be a stable resource for basic need services for all of Southern’s students, according to Cullers.
Last semester, free cooking classes were offered to teach students how to use the food provided to make healthy and inexpensive meals.
“The goal is to not only provide food but also nutrition,” said Cullers.
Surveys were created to understand if those classes would be provided again and how many students are willing to learn about healthy nutrition. However, Co-Op members are also working on modifying their items and creating a healthy environment by providing healthy snacks like cereals instead of chips.
For those interested, a new course offered to all majors called Lion Co-op Experimental Learning will be available for students that are interested in exploring the concept of being well. It also allows students to conduct various research and work for a non-profit.