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College Food Pantries Combat Growing Food Insecurity

Jun 20, 2018

The freshman fifteen: it’s a phenomenon where college students gain fifteen pounds the first year away from home. However, a growing number of students don’t add weight — they lose it.

According to a new study conducted by Temple University and the Wisconsin Hope Lab, 36 percent of U.S. college students experience food insecurity – the limited availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.

The issue is commonly overlooked during the summer, especially as much of the focus falls instead on the lack of K-12 lunch programs when the school year comes to a close.

While summer financial aid only covers tuition and fees and many scholarships don’t carry into summer term, students are left choosing between buying textbooks for their summer classes and paying for their next meal.

University food pantries are working to combat this problem. During the limited hours of operation, volunteers hand out groceries like rice, oatmeal, soup and canned tuna to students in need.

Katie Jones, registered dietitian and cofounder of the University of South Florida’s food pantry Feed-A-Bull, recognized some students’ struggles.

“The food that we offer is supplemental,” said Jones. “It’s not going to cover your meals for an entire week, but it is going to give you food that then allows you to allocate money towards other necessary expenditures that you have.”

USF's Feed-A-Bull is located in the Student Services Building on the Tampa campus.
Credit Molly Urnek / WUSF Public Media

USF’s Feed-A-Bull sees 20 to 25 students in need per week year round, according to Jones. Even during the summer, these students rely on the pantry.

Jones stressed that food pantries do more than just supply food to students. Feed-A-Bull provides students with cooking demonstrations, recipe cards and nutritional handouts as well.

“The main goal is just to provide supplemental food assistance and then also some nutrition education,” Jones said. “We also refer out to other services on campus to ensure students are connected with everybody that they could potentially need for additional assistance.”

USF’s Feed-A-Bull is holding a food drive until August 3 to ensure its shelves are stocked.

Currently, over 500 U.S. college campuses, including almost 20 in Florida, have food pantries.

Florida University Food Pantries

Hillsborough Community College

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 

Florida International University 

Florida State College at Jacksonville 

Florida State University

Miami Dade College

Polk State College

Santa Fe Community College

State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota

St. Petersburg College

Tallahassee Community College

University of Central Florida

University of Florida

University of North Florida

University of West Florida