Food pantries battle hunger on campus
The “Freshman 15,” a weight gain that legend warns follows many new college students, may be little more than myth for more than a third of students at universities and community colleges throughout the region.
A new national survey and “Still Hungry and Homeless in College” by the Wisconsin Hope Lab found that 36 percent of the 20,000 students in 35 universities and community colleges across the country weren't sure where their next meal was coming from some time during the prior month. The figure climbs to 42 percent when the sample is narrowed to only community college students — many of whom are adults or working multiple jobs in addition to attending classes.
This is the third year researchers found troubling signs of hunger among students they surveyed.
College and university officials and students here say that's been a factor in a number of campus food pantries that opened over the last three years. Unlike various financial aid programs, food pantries, which thrive on donations, are open to all students in need. Some even provide household and personal hygiene items.
The Cal U. Cupboard opened at California University of Pennsylvania in 2015 and continues to serve students stretched for resources.
A food pantry opened in early 2016 at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) South Campus, and a second CCAC food pantry opened last fall at its Boyce Campus, near Monroeville.
This year, students at the Westmoreland County Community College launched a food pantry at its Youngwood campus where students were encouraged to grab breakfast on the run.
This month, CCAC will open food pantries at its Allegheny Campus, North Campus and Homewood-Brushton Center. CCAC officials said the pantries are made possible through a partnership with East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM). A college-wide food drive to help support all of the CCAC pantries. Permanent food pantries are now established at all CCAC campuses and the Homewood-Brushton Center in an effort to combat the growing problem of food insecurity on college campuses.
“We know that food insecurity is one of the challenges that threatens the health and well-being of students and their ability to be successful,” said Dr. Evon Walters, president, CCAC Allegheny Campus and Homewood-Brushton Center. “This pantry and the other CCAC food pantries provide an essential avenue and resource in our ongoing efforts toward minimizing, if not eliminating, barriers that prevent students from thriving and succeeding in our learning environment.”
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.