Food insecurity among college students is prevalent on campuses across the country, and this issue has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent studies show that nearly one-third of students have experienced food insecurity since the beginning of the pandemic. About the same number of students also said hunger has impacted their ability to study, and more than half of students have accessed a food bank at least once.
Spartan Open Pantry, a campus-wide food insecurity initiative for students and staff in need, is one of those food pantries helping students through the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis.
At the start of the pandemic, Wesley-Luther Director Andrew Mails and Spartan Open Pantry volunteers anticipated an increased need from the community, without knowing exactly how long this crisis would last. When they asked for donations, the response was overwhelming.
“Because of UNCG staff, faculty, and Greensboro community members stepping up and making donations, there has not been a single day that a student has come in and we’ve been out of food or not able to provide for them,” said Mails.
In 2020, 35,000 pounds of food were distributed to students in need, a number nearly double that of the previous year. Additionally, $20,000 worth of gift cards were given to students to purchase fresh produce and other necessities.
Spartan Open Pantry is one of many resources on campus put in place to fight food and housing insecurity under UNCG Cares, an initiative by the Division of Student Affairs.
In 2019, a campus committee charged with diminishing food and housing insecurity was established, and new initiatives, funds, and programs have since been put in place to tackle this issue.
Two funds have been created to support students dealing with food insecurity, housing insecurity, and other emergencies: the Student Assistance Fund for Emergencies (SAFE), a non-cash emergency fund initiative set up to provide one-time emergency assistance to students with short-term unexpected and or unavoidable financial emergencies, and the Spartan Food Insecurity Fund, which supports Spartan Open Pantry.
Student Affairs also launched the Spartan Essentials program last year, including Spartans Swipes for Hunger which provides students who are food insecure or experiencing an emergency situation access to healthy and well-balanced meals at the campus dining hall. Over 1000 meal swipes have been donated, and several hundred meals have already been provided to those in need.
“Many students come to UNCG without all of the advantages that many other college students have,” said Dr. Cathy Akens, vice chancellor for student affairs. “When students are struggling with food insecurity, homelessness, or other issues, it becomes a barrier to their success. Our job is to remove that barrier and the stigma surrounding these issues to ensure that our students are equipped with the resources they need to succeed.”
Get help, no questions asked
Spartan Open Pantry is located at 509 Tate St. (College Place UMC) and is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5-9 p.m. Appointments can be made in an emergency. Additionally, a hot, home-cooked meal is served Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m.
On-campus SOPtoGO locations are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Student Affairs office(Mossman Administration Building), Dean of Students office (210 EUC), Campus Recreation and Wellness (Kaplan Center), and in the lobby of Gove Student Health. Students may pick up to five non-perishable items each visit.
Help students fighting food and housing insecurity
Donation drop-off for Spartan Open Pantry takes place Mondays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Follow Spartan Open Pantry on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what food items they are currently in need of.
Donate to Spartan Open Pantry.
Donate to the SAFE fund.
Donate to the Spartan Food Insecurity Fund.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications