Homework, financial aid, housing – all challenges facing most every college student. However, a new campus survey also reveals some students face another hurdle on a daily basis – food insecurity, or hunger.
Last May, roughly 900 students participated in EWU’s Health and Wellness biennial survey. Approximately one-third of students who responded identified as struggling with food insecurity, the lack of regular access to adequate and nutritious food.
Since then, resources on campus have banded together to determine how EWU can address the need on campus. For instance, a new exploration group has been created to assess campus efforts aimed at helping students with food insecurity.
“Our goal is to not have food insecurity be a barrier to academic success,” said Tricia Hughes, director of Health, Wellness and Prevention Services.
The food insecurity exploration group was created in December 2016 and is in its initial stages – collecting data, identifying resources and planning for the sustainability of its programs. In the meantime, two micro food pantries have been established at the Women’s and Gender Education Center and EWU Pride Center.
“I was a low-income student with three kids when I went here,” said Lisa Logan from the Women’s and Gender Education Center. “It was a really difficult experience for me as a student to have to visit a food bank. I wanted to start something that was less stigmatizing, and our food pantry is one step toward that goal.”
The Women’s and Gender Education Center food pantry holds non-perishable items and toiletries. Students are able to take what they need from the pantry by signing a sheet using three unique initials that don’t have to coincide with their name. Students can also use the center’s microwave and dishes.
“I wanted to make it as simple and easy as possible so students would feel like it’s not a big deal to come grab ingredients for lunch and dinner,” Logan said. “My goal is to create as few barriers as possible.”
Other efforts on campus to help curb hunger include the Office of Community Engagement’s Hunger and Homeless Outreach Team and the Dean of Students emergency fund. The student emergency fund was created to provide assistance to students who encounter unforeseen financial emergencies or catastrophic events that may hamper their academic progress. The fund also provides grocery gift cards, as well as food backpacks that can be given to students immediately.
Other resources for students include the Cheney Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank. The Cheney Food Bank is open the first four Wednesdays of every month from 9 a.m.-noon.
The next step for the food insecurity exploration work group is to propose a plan to help students who are food insecure. Individuals interested in serving on the group can contact Tricia Hughes. Individuals wishing to donate items to the Women’s and Gender Education Center food pantry may contact Lisa Logan. Logan suggested feminine hygiene products and quick, easy and microwaveable food items.