Many college students are hungry.
In a recent national survey, nearly half of students said they had experienced food insecurity within the past 30 days – meaning that they did not have consistent access to the nutritious food they need. Food insecurity is a result of barriers to healthy foods such as limited income and proximity to grocery stores. There are at least 573 colleges with food pantries in the U.S. according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance – a clear indication of the need for healthy foods among college and university students.
The University of Minnesota conducts a College Student Health Survey every three years. In reference to the 2015 survey, Rebecca Leighton – Foodshelf Coordinator at University of Minnesota – reported that: “nearly 18% of students worry that their food would run out before they had enough money to buy more, while 10% of students reported experiencing food shortages.” In response to these findings and her own observations of the state of hunger at the University of Minnesota, Rebecca founded the Nutritious U Food Pantry.
Nutritious U Food Pantry Fights Student Hunger
Students cannot reach their full academic potential when their basic needs are not met. When you are hungry, it’s hard to focus in class or study for exams. While it’s common for college students to juggle financial responsibilities on a limited income (such as rent, tuition, books, supplies, transportation, activities, and food), many students work part- or full-time and still cannot afford the healthy foods they need.
Nutritious U not only provides students with healthy, fresh food that is difficult to access on the University of Minnesota campus, but offers it in a dignified, respectful environment. Rebecca stated, “Nutritious U is dedicated to health promotion and addressing the root causes of food insecurity, The Food Group and their staff have been influential in helping us reach our goal.”
A Huge Response Leads to Long-Term Program
When the Nutritious U Food Pantry first opened in February 2017, organizers expected to see 400 students over the three day pilot distribution. Instead, they served 491 on the first day. This tremendous response put student need for healthy foods on the university’s policy radar. As a result, Nutritious U will now have a permanent home in Coffman Memorial Union with regular monthly distributions.
In the first three months of operation, Nutritious U Food Pantry had 2,428 visits and provided an amazing 15,003 pounds of healthy foods (equivalent to 12,502 meals) to students struggling with food insecurity. Ultimately, Rebecca Leighton believes this critical student resource will have long-term impact. “We don’t just want to provide emergency food to students who will use it,” Leighton said. “We want to increase their access to healthy food, increase their well-being and overall increase their learning potential.”
The Food Group Partners to Fight Hunger
My role as Agency Relations Specialist is to make sure that The Food Group is doing what we can to help support the work that our partners do in the community: providing food support and other resources to our neighbors in need. We support many different types of programs – foodshelves, meal programs, snack programs, and food distributions. Some of these programs are located in community centers, places of worship, or even college campuses. To date, we are working with over 160 agency partners that extend all the way North to Cass Lake, East to Amery Wisconsin, South to Le Sueur and West to Hutchinson.
We currently work with 4 different colleges to help provide healthy nutritious food to students; North Hennepin Community College, University of Minnesota, St. Catherine’s University, and Hamline University. We also support Metro State and Century College through community partnerships with Good in the Hood and Neighborhood House.
The Food Group is proud to partner with Nutritious U Food Pantry in the fight against hunger!
This post was written by Trica Leland, The Food Group Agency Relations Specialist. For more information, feel free to contact Trica.