UTPB faculty considering food pantry for students going hungry
March 20, 2017
Filed under Seen On Campus
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear UTPB community–Please vote in the “insufficient food” or hunger poll on this site.
We all know that youngsters in the public schools go hungry, but what about university students?
Federal leaders created the National School Lunch Program 70 years ago to ensure that needy children in America’s public schools would receive at least one meal a day. According to a new national report, 48 percent of college students surveyed reported experiencing food insecurity in the past month which included 22 percent with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry. The report, “Hunger on Campus,” indicated that food insecurity was more prevalent among students of color and that more than half of all first-generation students (56 percent) were food insecure.
Associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at The University of Texas System, Wanda Mercer, believes that college is a stressful time and that most people can appreciate that some students may be worrying about paying tuition or keeping up with their coursework.
“It will likely come as shock to many to realize that persistent hunger is a very real problem for many students. Thankfully, colleges and universities are no longer only for the privileged. And while we are providing more and more access to higher education for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, we have to ensure basic needs are being met so they can not only survive, but earn their degree and thrive,” Mercer explained.
Dr. Jamie Hughes, UTPB Associate Professor of Psychology, conducted a food pantry survey in an effort to find out how much of UTPB’s students were living with food insecurity or had experienced it since becoming a student on campus. Hughes asked the students how often they could afford to eat balanced meals in the past six months, had they worried whether their food would run out before they received money to buy more and many more food insecurity related questions.
Hughes survey results, based off of 70 students who participated, found that 61 percent can only afford to eat balanced meals half of the time or less, 36 percent skip meals when they cannot afford to purchase them and 54 percent said they would utilize a dry goods food pantry at UTPB. The professor believes that many students struggle with food insecurity due to trying to manage school and life.
“A number of students at UTPB struggle to juggle their educational goals with family and work responsibilities. Both time and money are a concern I have heard voiced by students. A number of students work in positions that do not pay them a living wage, less than $15 dollars an hour, so money is tight. Worried students are distracted students. If students are not worried about dinner they can focus on their studies more.” she stated.
Hughes explained that a food pantry would be more beneficial to UTPB considering her results of the survey.
“According to the survey I conducted, 57% of our students worry at least sometimes about having enough money for food, 61% could not afford to eat a balanced meal half of the time during the last 6 months, about 49% of students skipped meals or didn’t eat because they lacked money for food at least once in the last six months,” she informed. “Finally, 55% (of students sampled) were at least slightly likely to use a dry goods food pantry. Thus, a food pantry would help students and would likely be a better choice than a food drive because it [a pantry] provides food consistently.”
Hughes sympathizes with a lot of the students due to her upbringing and hopes to help prevent others on campus from having to deal with the same.
“I grew up poor so I understand how difficult it can be to reach one’s goals when there are financial or resource barriers. If I can help remove barriers for other people to succeed, I want to do that,” she said.