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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Some of us joke about being ‘starving college students,’ but there really are food insecure UA students

“Oh I’m just a starving college student,” you may say to a friend or family member with a laugh. The phrase is thrown around so often that people rarely see truth in it. However, the harsh reality is this trope is real.

There are millions of food insecure students across the country, and the UA is no exception. Feeding America reported in 2014 that 10 percent of their 46.5 million clients were students. Additionally, 30.5 percent of those polled reported having to choose between paying for food and paying for their education.

Not having access “to enough food for an active and healthy life,” the Department of Agriculture’s definition of food insecurity, has been steadily increasing in America in the last few years. Furthermore, it is well known that tuition rates around the country have also been rising.

The fact that some people wanting to further their education are so financially strained they have to make the choice between feeding themselves and going to school is absurd. Furthermore, our capitalistic society has evolved to make it almost impossible to be financially stable later in life without first receiving higher education. Therefore, in order for people to make enough to support themselves and later their families, they have to place themselves at risk of not being able to sufficiently nourish themselves — something many Americans see as a basic right — while pursuing their degrees.

All of these factors made it extremely clear to a group of UA students that something must be done. They recognized the presence of food insecurity at the UA and founded the UA Campus Pantry in 2012. Since its founding, Campus Pantry has helped hundreds of students who have food insecurity get access to meals.

One of the largest difficulties for the group has been finding a location where it can best serve its clients while having the capacity to hold its stock.

With its initial home in El Portal and later Babcock Hall, it was clear a lack of a central location kept the UA Campus Pantry from most effectively serving the university’s food insecure. However, this March, the Arizona Student Unions surprised Campus Pantry with a new location in the Student Union Memorial Center. This new location opens up a multitude of doors for the nonprofit.

Related: Campus Pantry moves to a more centralized living space in Student Union.

“This has always been longtime a dream of our organization,” said, Berkley Harris, the UA Campus Pantry director of communications said. “It’s just amazing that this lofty dream could become a reality.”

The challenge of moving inventory every year prior has also been eliminated with the new space.

“It’s also great to be able to call this our permanent location,” Harris said.

Not only does the new location give them access to refrigeration, it was also fully stocked by the student union and, therefore, allows the group to focus more effort on distributions rather than collections.

Moreover, refrigeration allows the nonprofit to bring more nutritious options to clients. Harris said it’s important for the UA Campus Pantry to improve the quality of food for clients, especially moving forward. And this can be furthered by the nonprofit’s new partnership with the Whole Foods on River Road .

Visibility has also always been a focus for the nonprofit. Harris agreed that in the recent past students have been talking more about the UA Campus Pantry, which has seen an influx of likes on its Facebook page.

However, not only does the UA Campus Pantry want to increase its own visibility but also “increase visibility of the issue of food insecurity especially at college campuses” Harris said.

It is evident that students are having an increasingly difficult time funding their education while also keeping themselves alive and healthy. However, the UA Campus Pantry has, and continues to do an amazing job at aiding food insecure students as best as it can. This new location provides the group with the unique opportunity to be more physically present for students and faculty that are food insecure. With more visibility, there is more opportunity to help the food insecure. The move will hopefully an increase knowledge about the issue, public concern and aid coming from and/or to more faculty and students.

Keeping students alive and healthy is a lofty job the UA Campus Pantry has taken on. This move is a stepping stone to allow the organization to more effectively achieve its goals. Donate, volunteer or simply spread the word. We can help fight food insecurity, one can at a time. 

Follow Sabrina Etchevery on Twitter.

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