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Food pantry established for graduate students at Biltmore Park instructional site

Western Carolina University and Eblen Charities have joined together to create a food pantry at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site, intended for a rarely considered clientele ― graduate students.

“WCU cares about student success and that their needs are being met, whether in the classroom or at home,” said Lane Perry, director of WCU’s Center for Service Learning, which is leading the university’s efforts. “We have to take into account aspects of wellness, such as proper diet and ready access to food, and not take for granted that because a person is seeking a post-graduate degree they can afford it.”

Eblen Charities, the community partner for the food pantry, is an Asheville-based nonprofit that supports health, housing, medical and other assistance throughout Western North Carolina.

Mackensie Jimison (foreground) with the Center for Service Learning and Sydney Haboush, an AmeriCorps Vista member, stock the Biltmore Park instructional site food pantry. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Cooper)

“For Western Carolina University to reach out, beyond academics, and help students in this way is a testament to values we all hold dear,” said Bill Murdock, CEO for Eblen Charities. “We are grateful to be included, along with Ingles Markets, in this partnership. When students are working hard to better their lives, they should not have to face the hardships of hunger and worry over food. When you’re hungry, nothing else matters.”

Graduate students will be able to take advantage of nutritious ingredients for meals to supplement personal or family needs, Perry said. Stocked items are full menu selections, with no out-of-date or damaged goods on the shelves. The pantry isn’t limited to food products, as hygiene items and family and household products also are available.

Headlock On Hunger vice-chair Beth Copeland, an Asheville resident, WCU graduate student and World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame member, was a catalyst for starting the food pantry. Headlock On Hunger is an organization of professional and amateur wrestlers, and wrestling fans, that works to help provide meals for students. A conversation with a fellow graduate student about “making ends meet” and being limited when buying groceries led her to the idea for a food pantry.

“Graduate school can be tough on students and can put a major strain on their resources,” said Kevan D. Frazier, executive director of WCU’s Biltmore Park Programs. “We are especially grateful to Eblen and Ingles for supporting us in bringing the pantry to fruition. We are thrilled to be able to make the pantry available to help grad students achieve success in the classroom and at home.”

For more information about supporting the pantry, contact WCU’s Center for Service Learning at 828-227-7184 or

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