By Sara Karlovitch

Food insecurity, meaning not having enough food or a reliable source of food, is no stranger to 20 percent of this university’s students, according to a 2015 study done by the School of Public Health.

Food insecurity negatively impacts academic performance, self-esteem and anxiety, according to the report. The rising cost of college tuition and other factors have contributed to food insecurity on college campuses. The Washington Post called hunger on college campuses a “Hidden crisis.”

The Campus Pantry, founded in 2014, was established to help food insecure students and faculty.

The pantry is located in the basement of the Health Center. The pantry is open each Friday and visitors can take home up to ten items each week, no questions asked.

“There’s a lot of stigma behind entry like maybe people feel like embarrassed or like you didn’t want to let other people know,” Daniel Kim, the Campus Pantry’s intern said.

The pantry can see anywhere between 30 to 80 people a week, and they are currently working to reach more people. The pantry sees a mixture of both faculty and students.  

“I’ve been working with collaborators cross-campus, the school public health, the health center, the counseling center to better understand the scope of the problem,” Allison Lilly Tjaden, the sustainability and wellness coordinator for dining services said.

Tjaden also said they are working to identify who was the most at risk for food insecurity. “First-generation college students, students from lower SES (Socio-economic status) backgrounds as well as minority students and students with disabilities,” Tjaden said were the groups most at risk.

Tjaden said that she is working with different organizations on campus to supply additional resources for those who use the pantry. “The SGA approached us around and emergency meal program to be able to distribute maybe meal cards for people as a supplement or an addition to what they can access for the pantry,” Tjaden said.

Students are aware of the high poverty rate among their fellow classmates. However, students like Getahun Seyoum, a sophomore public health major, feels that the university doesn’t do enough to inform student living in poverty of the help available to them. “There’s so many students and so little people that you can actually face to face and talk too,” Seyoum said.

Kim said that advertising the pantry is tricky, even in the age of social media. “If you were to like follow or like the Pantry, then you might be making a public that like that you might be food insecure,” Kim said.

However, Tjaden said she feel’s hopeful that resources for food insecure member of the community will improve.

“I feel really optimistic that more students and more conversation and the more work we have going on around this, uh, the more luck we will have him kind of alleviating the issue and really, you know, it comes down to s suffering for people who are here with us on campus,” Tjaden said.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kawaiikiri’s Flickr page.

Sara Karlovitch is a sophomore journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at skarlovi@terpmail.umd.edu.

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