UH Veteran Services Helps Battle Food Insecurity with a Heartfelt Initiative - University of Houston
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DSA News
October 27, 2023

By Celina Dugas, Program Director 2, Veterans Services — 832-842-6108

In a world where education is the cornerstone of personal and professional development, no student should worry about where their next meal will come from. Recognizing this fundamental truth, the University of Houston's Veteran Services office, under the steadfast leadership of Program Director Celina Dugas, has embarked on a heartwarming mission to combat food insecurity among its student population. The innovative approach involves transforming an old bookshelf into a pantry stocked with healthy snacks, and it has been made possible through generous donations from Coog Moms and Chevron Phillips Chemical.

VSO Staff

Photo Courtesy: UH Veterans Services

Turning a Vision into Reality

Celina Dugas, a dedicated advocate for veterans and a compassionate leader for her students, saw a pressing issue that needed immediate attention. Like their civilian counterparts, many student veterans face food insecurities while striving to excel academically. To address this issue, she envisioned a simple yet impactful solution that would create a welcoming and accessible resource for students in need. The concept was clear: repurpose an old bookshelf within the Veteran Services office into a pantry filled with nutritious snacks. This would offer a practical solution to food insecurity and promote a sense of community and support among the military-affiliated student population.

From Bookshelf to Pantry

With the vision in mind, Celina Dugas and her dedicated team embarked on the transformation process. The old bookshelf underwent a remarkable makeover in terms of its purpose and appearance. Shelves once lined with textbooks were now adorned with various healthy snacks, providing a lifeline for students experiencing hunger while studying or attending classes.

The pantry is strategically located within the Veteran Services office, ensuring easy access for those who most need it. Whether a student seeks guidance on academic matters or wants to grab a quick snack, the pantry offers a warm and welcoming environment.

Community Support that Nourishes Hope

Celina Dugas' visionary idea would not have been realized without the invaluable support of the community. Two key contributors have played a pivotal role in sustaining this initiative over the last year. Coog Moms, a vibrant group of University of Houston mothers dedicated to supporting students, have kept the pantry stocked. Through their program, Coog Moms offers $500 grants to on-campus programs and organizations to support students; a grant that the Veteran Services was awarded in the Spring has helped ensure that the pantry remains a reliable resource for veterans facing food insecurity.

Additionally, Chevron Phillips Chemical, a company known for its commitment to corporate social responsibility, recognized the significance of this initiative and provided vital financial support. Their contributions have helped maintain the pantry and allowed it to expand its offerings, providing a broader range of choices for students. Chevron Phillips Chemical has long supported UH Veteran Services, a partnership recognized by the large photo hanging in the office, which was presented to Veteran Services when Chevron Phillips Chemical donated funds to upgrade the computer lab in 2019.

The Impact of a Caring Community

The impact of UH Veteran Services' initiative to combat food insecurity cannot be overstated. It goes beyond providing sustenance; it fosters a sense of belonging, dignity, and hope among student veterans. By turning an old bookshelf into a source of nourishment and support, Celina Dugas and her team have created a tangible symbol of the university's commitment to its veterans.

In a world where challenges and uncertainties mark the journey of education, the story of UH Veteran Services and its transformative pantry is a testament to the power of empathy, innovation, and community collaboration. Through the unwavering dedication of individuals like Celina Dugas and her team and the generous contributions from organizations like Coog Moms and Chevron Phillips Chemical, the University of Houston is taking significant strides toward eradicating food insecurity and ensuring that every student can thrive.

As we look to the future, may this initiative inspire others to act, recognizing that even small acts of kindness can create a ripple effect of positive change within our communities and institutions of higher learning.