SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Missouri State’s Bear Pantry has been around since April of 2019, but recently they’ve ramped up efforts to help serve students who face food insecurity.

Students who utilize the Bear Pantry now have access to fresh produce thanks to MSU’s agriculture department.

“With food insecurity on this campus, it’s surprising how many students don’t eat well, and that was our idea to try and make good greens and feed them better than eating ramen noodles,” MSU graduate student Scoot Cooley said.

Cooley and his peer created a way for this to happen using hydroponics.

“The basis of hydroponics is really simple; growing plants without soil, all it takes is water, nutrients and a growing medium. It could be clay balls, any kind of compact material…”

The team says they’re thankful to provide a healthier option for students.

“People reap the rewards of what we do, it’s amazing to see a plant start from seed and be harvested in a few weeks and the people enjoying it,” Cooley said. “It’s been a big hit.”

Alex Johnson oversees the Bear Pantry and says the produce also provides a teaching opportunity.

“This hydroponics system and the college of agriculture’s service learning model that they’re working with provides a great example of how the Bear Pantry serves as a learning lab for students and how we can continue to educate about healthy choices when using the Bear Pantry,” Johnson, Director of Community and Engaged Learning, said.

Johnson says there’s an increased need for the pantry’s services.

“In Fall of 2020 we’ve seen an increase of about 60 students per month, and so right now we’re serving around 250 students consistently,” Johnson said.

The Bear Pantry is available on campus for students, faculty and staff.