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For many college students, in addition to strict study schedules, adjusting to new surroundings and responsibilities, and new life experiences, one harsh reality that many have to deal with his hunger.
Food insecurity – the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food – is common at colleges and universities across the country, and it has the potential to derail the educational success of thousands of students.
According to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness, 48% of students polled for a recent survey reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22% with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.
In an effort to curb some of this concern on their campus, one university as followed the lead of several across the country by opening up a food pantry for its students. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), in San Antonio, Texas (63.34% Latino population) opened the UTSA Roadrunner Pantry after an initiative spearheaded by concerned students.
Two years in the making, the pantry was the idea of Rebecca Conejo, UTSA English major, UTSA University Center (UC) student manager and UC Advisory Council chair, helped organize the pantry, and Nikki Lee, UC senior associate director of events management.
“I know people who’ve said they’ve gone hungry because they didn’t have access to food,” Conejo said. “Helping others helps us all in return. Bettering the lives of others betters ourselves.”
The pantry has been set up similar to a grocery store and any UTSA student with a valid UTSA ID will be able to go shopping for non-perishable food items. On the shelves are items such as peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit, pasta, soup and even toiletries. All items can be picked up free of charge.
The stocks will be shelved through donations from the UTSA community.
“Eradicating food insecurities won’t happen overnight,” Conejo said. “But if we take these little steps, we’re helping meet the ultimate goal of student success.”
Read more about the UTSA Roadrunner Pantry here.
At your public school in Texas, you can use the new Salud America! “School Food Pantry Action Pack” to help school personnel talk to decision-makers, work through logistics, and start a School Food Pantry to help hungry students and reduce local food insecurity!
The Action Pack was created by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. Dr. Ramirez had input from Jenny Arredondo, nutrition director at San Antonio ISD, who started school food pantries on 10 campuses in 2017-18, based on a Texas law change led by Diego Bernal.