By Peter Jenkins
As we enter football season, thoughts turn to tailgating parties bursting with food and drink, not the fact that nearly 20 percent of students struggle to get the nutrition they need to be healthy.
However, a growing trend of Food Pantry programs is combating student hunger. According to a study done by Michigan State University, shows that the number of college food banks across the US has shot up from one in 2008 to 121 as of 2014. The LSU Food Pantry program, which began in 2013, has helped 434 students get the nutrition they need since August 2014, and hopes to grow even more in 2015 and beyond.
This program is available to any LSU student upon completing a form on their first visit.
Some students will use the service once or a handful of items; others use the service to supplement their pantry at home with mores substantial amounts of food. Regardless, of the customer’s level of need, Jennie Stewart the Assistant Dean of Students, Associate Director of Advocacy, and program creator is happy to serve them and make sure that students get what they need.
“With a high poverty rate in LA we knew students were in need,” Stewart said. “It’s a small, low budget operation so there really weren’t big hurdles to overcome. I got bookshelves from surplus and a few donations so we were ready to start. It wasn’t a big project that required the blessing of many folks and departments so really there weren’t many barriers. The biggest barrier we have is staff time as this is side project.”
Stewart said that eventually, she would like to have students in more active roles at the food bank and healthier options for students to choose from.
“I’d like to see it student led, as is the case at many other universities, and include fresh food options,” she said
For now the largest boundary to success for this program, for now, is awareness, but even that is changing quickly. Doctoral student and Instructor in the Department of Communication Studies Adam Harvey is leading a project this Summer with a class he is teaching to raise awareness of this program. Currently, his plans include helping his students create, promote, and implement a campaign to raise awareness about, and resources for, the food bank.
“There’s so much need out there for students to get resources that they’re not getting other places,” he said. “A lot of times when we think of people needing resources we think in the community at large.”
Harvey also mentioned how it is important to him for people to give back to the community that they are a part of, which is why he is working on a new project to raise awareness for this program, which he described as a critical aspect of the success of the program. As a part of his project he is planning to have students design new media materials, creating and giving presentations on the food pantry program, and engaging in a social media campaign to raise awareness of the program. He is also considering helping to update the website and for the students to “work with different areas of campus to get them involved in having departmental food drives so that this project starts some momentum with scheduling multiple food drives with different parts of the LSU campus so that there is a continuation of food coming into the food pantry.”