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The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona college campus pantries tackle food insecurity amidst rising consumer costs

Campus+Pantry+volunteers+organize+food+into+different+baskets+in+the+Sonora+Room+on+the+first+floor+of+the+Student+Union+Memorial+Center+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+24.+The+goal+of+the+pantry+is+to+reduce+food+insecurity+in+the+University+of+Arizona+community+by+offering+free+food+staples+to+students+and+staff.
Sohi Kang
Campus Pantry volunteers organize food into different baskets in the Sonora Room on the first floor of the Student Union Memorial Center on Friday, Feb. 24. The goal of the pantry is to reduce food insecurity in the University of Arizona community by offering free food staples to students and staff.

One in five University of Arizona students is experiencing food insecurity right now, according to Campus Health’s 2022 Health and Wellness Survey. 

Food insecurity means “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Nutrition is especially important as college students often rely on cheap fast food due to a number of factors such as busy schedules. 

Each of Arizona’s three public universities operates food pantries for students in need to combat this issue.

In 2021, Arizona State University had a 26% rate of food insecurity while Northern Arizona University had a 47% rate, according to a student food and housing insecurity report by the Arizona Board of Regents. The UA had a 35% food insecurity rate that year, according to the report. 

A statewide problem with rising food costs

The current economic climate makes having food security increasingly challenging with consumer food prices jumping 10.1% over the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Food prices are rising due to inflation, which is affected by multiple factors, said UA research economist Beatriz Del Campo-Carmona.

“Poverty rate increased, unemployment rate increased and housing affordability declined — so there are many factors that affect food insecurity,” Del Campo-Carmona said.

Campus Pantry volunteers organize supplies in the Sonora Room on the first floor of the Student Union Memorial Center on Friday, Feb. 24. The goal of the pantry is to reduce food insecurity in the UA community by offering free food staples to students and staff. 
Campus Pantry volunteers organize supplies in the Sonora Room on the first floor of the Student Union Memorial Center on Friday, Feb. 24. The goal of the pantry is to reduce food insecurity in the UA community by offering free food staples to students and staff. 

The effects of COVID-19 also left more people food insecure because of job disruptions. Households that experienced job disruptions had a food insecurity rate of 57%, compared to 19% for households that did not experience a disruption, according to a 2021 Map AZ Dashboard survey by UA Senior Research Economist Jennifer Pullen.

“Inflation rising about 7-8% puts pressure on people as wages stay stagnant,” Pullen said.

Bridging the gap between the three universities

The goal of the three public universities’ food pantries is to provide a convenient and free way to find food. The pantries provide any student, faculty or staff member with a variety of groceries.

Roughly 1,600 students visit the UA’s Campus Pantry on a weekly basis, Senior Coordinator of Basic Needs Center and Services Bridgette Riebe said in an email interview.

Though purchasing operations at this time have not been affected by inflation at Campus Pantry, it is becoming harder to provide pantry staples like eggs with the recent shortage.

“We are not decreasing the number of eggs purchased due to the costs, however, because of the shortages, we are not getting in the number of eggs ordered,” Riebe said in the email.

The egg shortages nationwide come after an outbreak of bird flu late last year wiped out more than 50 million chickens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

For the past few months, Campus Pantry supplies have been affected by a nationwide egg shortage. The pantry offers free food staples to food-insecure UA students and staff. It can be found in the Sonora Room on the first floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.
For the past few months, Campus Pantry supplies have been affected by a nationwide egg shortage. The pantry offers free food staples to food-insecure UA students and staff. It can be found in the Sonora Room on the first floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.

ASU’s Pitchfork Pantry serves about 600 people a week across its campuses, said the pantry’s faculty advisor Maureen McCoy.

But there is limited availability because Pitchfork Pantry is operated as a student-run club.

“Admin does not see the food pantry as the way to improve food security. We are entirely grant supported and obtain individual/community donations. We receive no funding (or on-campus space) from the university,” McCoy said in an email.

NAU had an average of 300-350 weekly visitors at its food pantry, Louie’s Cupboard, said advisor Azah Quach. 

Quach said being open to having a conversation about food insecurity is important, too. Many students do not even realize they are experiencing food insecurity because they do not entirely understand what it is. 

“Yes, you can go out and use your money to buy that food. But if you buy that food, is it putting you out on something else that you could have used the money for?” Quach said. “Be open to talking about it.”

Food pantry hours

University of Arizona’s Campus Pantry is open 2-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays in the Sonora Room on the first floor of the Student Union Memorial Center. Any student, faculty or staff member can access it with a CatCard or ID number. 

Northern Arizona University’s Louie’s Cupboard is open for distribution from 1-4 p.m. biweekly and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays for grab-and-go bags at the Lumberjack CARE Center. Any student, faculty or staff member can access the pantry.

Arizona State University’s Pitchfork Pantry is open at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix Campus 2:30-4 p.m. on Tuesdays. The Tempe Campus pantry is open Mondays 1:30-2:30 p.m. and Thursdays 2-3 p.m. Their Polytechnic Campus pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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