UISG backs campus food pantry


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It’s a given that college students love free food, but for some, it may be one of the only ways to eat.

At its meeting Tuesday, the University of Iowa Student Government unanimously voted to give $10,000 in funding to start an on-campus food pantry for students, staff, and faculty.

A Food Insecurity Panel of students and university staff came together in January to develop a campus food pantry. The panel determined that there was a need for a pantry after examining data and finding that food insecurity was a prevalent issue on college campuses. According to Feed America, a national hunger relief organization, roughly 10 percent of adults seeking food assistance are college students.

In addition to the panel, the UI also sent out a survey to gauge the level of food insecurity among students.

One respondent wrote, “In the past month, there have been six days where I’ve gone completely without eating.”

Another said, “I literally cannot afford food, so I took up cigarettes because they are cheaper per week and curb my appetite.”

Andrew Hirst, an intern at the Office of Sustainability who helped plan the project, said other large universities have programs designed to fight campus hunger.

“Twelve of the 14 Big Ten schools have food pantries already, Minnesota and the University of Iowa being the two that don’t,” he said.

Hirst also said food insecurity is especially prevalent in Johnson County.

“It is the most cost-burdened county in Iowa, with an upwards of 35 percent of the tenants being cost-burdened,” he said. “Fifty percent or more of their income is going to just their rent and just housing costs alone.”

Jessica Morris, the Food Bank coordinator at the Johnson County Crisis Center, agreed that a campus pantry would benefit UI students.

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“Often, there is a belief that being a college student means struggling and trying to survive on ramen noodles and peanut-butter sandwiches,” Morris wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “This means sometimes students may not see the hunger they are experiencing as a problem, but as a regular part of the college experience. It is important that students know where their next meal is coming from. They should be able to eat full meals like anyone else.”

Benjamin Marks, a student ambassador for the Office of Outreach and Engagement who has helped lead the project, said the pantry will be located in the 200-210 corridor of the IMU. (Disclosure: Marks has previously worked for the DI.)

“Our current plan is to have it open two days a week on Monday and Thursday,” Marks said.

The pantry will be seen as a UI student organization and will be overseen by the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.

Marks said that roughly one-third of the $10,000 will be used for one-time startup expenses, while around $7,000 will fund recurring expenses, such as purchasing food and paying two student interns who will act as pantry co-directors.

“A large part of our budget will go to food purchasing,” Marks said, “However, we are hoping to have most of our food be donated.”

Marks said graduate students in particular could benefit from the food pantry.

“People don’t think about this a lot, but a lot of grad students have families, they have children, they are doing research, so they don’t necessarily have time to work,” he said. “So grad students usually have a much higher level of food insecurity on campus than undergraduates do.”

Marks said the project is ahead of schedule and the food pantry will be on campus sooner than expected.

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