It’s normal for college students to worry about classes, grades and money. They shouldn’t have to worry about having enough to eat, too.
But for some, food insecurity is a reality. Recent studies suggest that nearly half of the nation’s college students go without meals at some point. For some, the situation is chronic, meaning food is an everyday worry. For others, it’s the result of additional factors, such as dining halls closing for shorter holiday breaks.
An effort underway at Marietta College aims to address the need for food among some of its students, faculty and staff.
Lori Hart is an administrative coordinator at the College, but she’s also a student. As part of a class project, she recently surveyed students and employees about their food needs and found many didn’t always get enough to eat.
The idea of an on-campus food pantry was formed.
“Part of the project was coming up with a plan for a business that would give back to the community,” Hart says. From that, the College established a food insecurity committee made up of faculty, staff and students.
“I was surprised by the need—even more so, the need expressed by employees,” Hart says. “We also have commuter students with families in need.”
McCoy Hall has been chosen as the location for the pantry this semester, but food already is being distributed to students through the campus mail system. Food can be requested online and delivered to students in discreet packaging.
“We don’t intend to fulfill a student’s entire food needs, but rather to supplement,” Hart says. “Many students just don’t have enough.”
Michele Marra, Vice President for Administration and Finance, also serves on the food insecurity committee. She first learned about food insecurity on college campuses while attending a conference a couple of years ago.
“I was stunned,” she says.
When she learned there was a need at Marietta College, she said she wasn’t surprised, but she was concerned.
“It breaks my heart,” she says. “I don’t want people to be in this situation.”
There’s no one reason for food insecurity. Like most colleges, Marietta College offers a variety of financial aid options and a variety of food plans to meet students’ needs. Even so, some students’ resources aren’t enough.
Marra wants to make sure students are getting the help they need.
“It’s something we are going to have to analyze so we can wipe it out,” she says. “We want students to go to class and employees to their jobs. Food isn’t something people should have to worry about.”
Hart says she’s already received thanks for starting the program from those receiving food and from others eager to donate to the cause. Recently, donations of food were gathered as part of a Christmas Door Decorating Contest. She’s also hoping to collaborate with other established food pantries in the community.
The College’s Board of Trustees were so moved by the program that they donated $10,000 to support it.
- Jennifer Folwell