Thanks to a group of students, Otterbein University now has a program to help battle a problem that some may not think exists.

Thanks to a group of students, Otterbein University now has a program to help battle a problem that some may not think exists.

Volunteer students and faculty launched the school's Promise House, a place meant to fight hunger and financial burdens placed on students at the university.

Led by student leaders known as peer advocates, the Promise House offers a food pantry, resources for financial advice or help and a general feel of inclusion. Items come from a variety of sources, mostly donations from other organizations, the university and campus groups such as fraternities and sororities.

Promise House's goal is to fill in where meal plans and spending money can fall short.

"Otterbein is a good school and the tuition is high," freshman peer advocate Daniel Bishoff said, "so a lot of people assume students have to be in good financial status to come to Otterbein."

That perception -- along with students' reluctance to ask for help -- can make it seem like there aren't hungry students on campus, the peer advocates say.

"Lots of people don't show signs of having food problems," Bishoff said. "But you can't tell just by looking at someone."

Organizers of the Promise House are very aware of those perceptions.

They're working hard to avoid being labeled as a food pantry or with other terms that might make students less likely to show up.

"We want to make it more like a hangout," freshman peer advocate Haylie Schmoll said. "When you say you have a pantry or something like that, there's kind of a stigma and people don't feel like they're welcome. That's not what we want at all."

Schmoll, who is tasked with outreach for the group, said the key is creating a cohesive environment rather than applying labels or judgement.

"We've all been through tough times; we've all been through struggles," she said. "But we're kind of creating momentum through our circumstances and we're all in this together."

To raise awareness, the group has small events planned such as free breakfasts and "taco Tuesday" to create a sense of community.

Promise House can be found in the first floor lounge of Otterbein's Home Street Commons, 86 W. Home St.