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Coping With The Pandemic: Students Turning to Food Pantries

Posted at 10:07 AM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 10:07:24-04

LANSING, Mich. — There's another group of people increasingly going hungry amid the pandemic. Amanda Brandies shows us why some college students now can't afford to eat.

Once a safe haven, college campuses are now deserted.

Elaine Lipiz Gonzalez, Dean of Student Support Services at Fullerton College shared that “When the campus closed, to keep everyone safe and healthy, the food bank was no exception, so that also had to close.”

The food bank at Southern California’s Fullerton College was a welcoming space for students facing hunger.

“Sometimes it means that at a certain time of the month food is not as plentiful in the pantry or the fridge. Some students face that issue every day of the month.”

Even before the pandemic, college students relied on help to fulfill this basic need.

A nationwide study of nearly 86,000 students revealed 45% faced food insecurity in the last 30 days.

David Gillanders, Executive Director of Pathways of Hope explained that “I think the only thing a pandemic can do is accelerate and put under a microscope, all of these issues.”

Nearly a month-and-a-half after shutting down its food pantry, the community college launched a weekly drive-through food distribution.

“Gratitude in every single car.”

Before COVID-19 the campus pantry served about 200 students per week.

When the weekly drive-throughs launched in April, that number jumped to 420 students – and now averages at around 320 students a week.

Elaine says that "this" is not unique. She knows of similar situations across the country.

“They’re struggling, they’re incredibly resilient and strong students, but they’re juggling that

“Are you in college?”

Students can also access a food pantry which typically serves the homeless, five days a week - a solution other colleges can encourage.

It’s unknown how many colleges had to shut down their campus food pantries.

State and federal emergency grants are helping some students with basic needs, but advocates say its band-aid for the pervasive inequities among America’s college students.

“Food insecurity, housing insecurity, transportation insecurity, mental health – those are all basic needs.”

And when they go unmet, the chances of succeeding in the classroom could be lost too.

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