Colleges Open Food Pantries for Hungry Students

The U of A pantry stocks foods such as canned vegetables, brown rice, peanut butter, and ramen noodles. It will also offer personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes and laundry detergent. "It's important because we've come to understand that if our students aren't having their basic needs met, then they can't fully focus on their educational pursuits," Jones said.

U of A students who want to use the pantry must go to its website, fill out demographic information, check off the food items they want, and then submit their order. Pantry workers will then package a three-day supply of food for the student, who must show his or her university ID to pick up the order. Students are limited to using the food pantry once per week.

'I Haven't Eaten in Two Days'

The University of Central Florida opened its food pantry in 2009 in a small storage room in the student union, but it has now moved to a larger location that has the capacity to store 6,000 pounds of food. UCF conducted an anonymous survey of some students who use the pantry. "I haven't eaten in two days," wrote one UCF student. "I was reluctant to come. But I'm glad I did." Another student wrote:"With only one of my parents working and my sister onto law school in the fall, I have been hesitant to ask for grocery money these past few months. Instead, I would survive on leftover yogurt and frozen veggies. This time one of my friends suggested that I try going to The Pantry and I'm so glad that I did!"

Willis Chico, UCF's community outreach coordinator, says the food pantry really serves a need. "We are not in any way, shape, or form a free supermarket," he said. "We are here to aid students who really need that food." Students must show their UCF ID to get food from the pantry. No identifying information is stored. Chico said so far no one has abused that privilege. "Students don't take more than they need," he said. "Students are actually respecting the honor system."

At U of A, students organized a food pantry after hearing stories about other students on campus in need of food assistance, but administrators also looked at statistics on hunger for the state of Arkansas. At WVU, administrators read an article from NPR about college students who are too ashamed to admit they need food assistance, leading WVU personnel to believe that there were probably students on their campus who were in that situation.

'I Don't Have to Worry About How I Will Eat'

Campus food pantries are run mostly on donations. At ISU in January, about 1,400 canned goods were donated by students in just one night. And ever since WVU's food pantry started last year, Dooley said the support has been "phenomenal." Monetary donations have come in from as far as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. A food drive held at WVU last semester brought in more than 9,000 items for the pantry.

Dooley said it has been "heartwarming and thrilling" to see the number of students who appreciate WVU's campus food pantry. She read a letter from one student who wrote, "I don't know if I will even make my rent this November. It's nice to know I don't have to worry about how I will eat."

U of A has even gotten help from major corporations. Tyson Foods has pledged to give a grant to the food pantry. Sam's Club donated $1,000 and has promised a monthly gift. Wal-Mart hosted a food drive for U of A at its corporate headquarters.

Although students at both ISU and U of A have been hindered from visiting their campus food pantries because of the snowstorms over the past week, Boudreau and Jones say they expect business to pick up soon. Bourdreau said she expects the pantry to eventually serve about 30 students per week. Jones said he eventually expects anywhere from 50 to 100 students weekly. contributor Amy Rigby is a member of the ABC News on Campus program in Gainesville, Fla.
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