Students opening on-campus food pantry to address food insecurity

Erin Kurtz, Henny Ransdell and Melissa Sternberg picked up a bag of bagels Oct. 11 to deliver to the St. Vincent De Paul food pantry. Bagels will now also be given to the new Cardinal Cupboard food pantry.

The Cardinal Cupboard food pantry, a sustainability and social justice initiative of Student Involvement addressing campus food insecurity, will open Jan. 31 in the Student Activities Center.

Located in SAC W303C, the pantry will offer a variety of donated non-perishable goods, hygiene products and recovered foods. The hours will be Monday, Wednesday, Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Efforts to open the food pantry began last summer when students on the Engage Lead Serve Board began discussing the issue of food insecurity. The Sustainability Council’s Free Store in Unitas Tower, offering no-cost clothing and household items as a way to encourage recycling, had been stocking some food items, but there wasn’t enough space for a full-fledged pantry.

Food insecurity is defined as “a lack of consistent access to healthy food options,” said Kathy Meyer, coordinator of student leadership and service and adviser to the Engage Lead Serve Board. “From our conversations, we shared general observations about the need for safe and easily accessible free food resources for students with limited funds. We also discussed opportunities to provide support and education about the importance of food sustainability and eliminating food waste on campus. As a group, we decided to focus on developing a campus food pantry, which the Student Government and the Engage Lead Serve Board were in full support of establishing.”

Last fall, students Erin Kurtz and Henrietta Ransdell founded a Food Recovery Network chapter at UofL. The network’s 230 nationwide chapters are aimed at combating hunger and food waste. As part of the network, students collected leftover food such as bagels from Einstein Bagels and delivered it to local food banks and shelters. The UofL chapter has recovered over 1,900 pounds of food, with some now going toward the food pantry.

Just last month, the federal government published a 62-page study on college students and food insecurity, recommending colleges and state agencies do a better job providing information that would help eligible students obtain assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“In fiscal year 2017, the federal government spent over $122 billion in grants, loans and work-study funds through federal student aid programs to help make college accessible to students,” the study said. “This substantial federal investment in higher education is at risk if college students drop out because they cannot afford basic necessities like food.”

UofL brought the topic to the forefront last year in awarding its Grawemeyer Award in Education to Temple University’s Sara Goldrick-Rab. Her eye-opening research into the modern struggle to pay for college, published in her 2016 book, “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid and the Betrayal of the American Dream,” details students’ struggles with not only tuition and books, but also food insecurity, homelessness and lack of transportation. Her nonprofit research center, the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, studies these issues to improve the lives of what Goldrick-Rab calls “#RealCollege students.”

“I’m delighted to see University of Louisville students acting to support their classmates’ basic needs” Goldrick-Rab said. “For far too long, insufficient food and poor housing marked college life, undermining a learning experience that should be immensely rewarding. Louisville is a welcome addition to this national movement.”

Source: Students opening on-campus food pantry to address food insecurity (UofL News, Jan. 16, 2019)