Students and staff at Northeast Tech's Afton campus have established a food pantry to benefit their peers.

AFTON - Working in conjunction with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and the Northeast Tech Foundation, students and staff at Northeast Tech’s Afton campus have established a food pantry to benefit their peers. Student Advisor Tobie Gatewood first brought this idea to the campus after participating in a CareerTech leadership program.

“I saw a similar program at Western Tech while touring their campus last year as part of the TechCAP leadership class,” Gatewood said. “There is a great need for this type of resources for our students, and I think it would surprise people to know how many of our students go hungry on a regular basis.”

Upon returning from her visit to Western Tech, Gatewood approached her supervisor and fellow staff members about starting a similar program at Northeast Tech. Afton Campus Director, Dr. Curtis Shumaker, felt the idea was both practical and purposeful.

“It’s difficult to learn on an empty stomach, and a number of our students are forced to go without basic necessities and comforts that many of us take for granted,” Shumaker said. “Having a resource like this on our campus means our students can get what they need to be healthy and successful.”

But there was one major obstacle to overcome: in order to establish a sanctioned food bank, an organization must have a 501c3 tax status.

“Our district is not classified as a 501c3, but the Northeast Tech Foundation is,” said Diane Hampton, also a student advisor on the Afton campus. “When I pitched the idea to the foundation board this summer, they were excited about the opportunity to help our students in this way, and they quickly approved the proposal.”

Officially known as Campus Corner, the students who are helping organize the campus’s new food pantry are gathering donations of all sorts. From peanut butter and canned fruits and veggies to toiletry items like toothpaste and shampoo, students are working hard to stock the shelves so their fellow classmates may benefit.

“I think a lot of us take for granted how fortunate we are in what we have,” said Olivia Pitcher, a health careers student who is helping with the project. “With the opening of Campus Corner, students who need a box of laundry detergent or a couple days’ worth of food can go in and get whatever they need and not have to be worrying about how they will eat that night when things are a little tight.”

To be eligible to “shop” for items in Campus Corner, students may contact a student advisor, be referred by Northeast Tech staff, or receive a referral from an educator at one of the sending schools served by the Afton Campus. Students must meet the criteria established by the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma regarding household income, or students can be approved due to recent unforeseen circumstances they may be facing.

“Students can become very good at hiding their need, so it will take all of us being alert to their situations to make sure they utilize this resource,” Gatewood said. “We don’t want this on our campus just to take up space – we want it to actually help those we intend it to help.”

While Campus Corner is located on the Northeast Tech campus, Hampton and the others hope it will become a community effort in the fight against hunger.

“Patrons can drop off donations of food and toiletry items, and monetary donations are also accepted,” Hampton said. “Checks should be made payable to the Northeast Technology Center Foundation, and all donations are tax-deductible.”

About Northeast Tech

Northeast Tech’s campuses are located in Afton, Kansas, Pryor and Claremore. Through its full-time daytime classes, short-term evening classes, and its business and industry services and training, Northeast serves well over 34,000 patrons per year. For more information on any of the classes or training programs available, visit Northeast Tech’s website at or call (918) 825-7040.