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Feeding the Eagles

Rodney Mitchell and Olivia FrittsThis spring, the UNT Dean of Students Office will open a food pantry to serve as a temporary solution for students who find themselves unable to buy healthy, nutritious food after taking care of other expenses.

The food pantry opened Jan. 20 in Stovall Hall, room 150. It will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursdays to accommodate students who work business hours during the week.

Olivia Fritts, coordinator in the Dean of Students Office says several departments across campus have already agreed to collect food for the pantry. For example, the Library Services’ Food for Fines program will donate a portion from its collection in April to the food pantry.

Donations to the pantry can be dropped off during office hours. Accepted items include nonperishable food, toiletries and feminine hygiene products.

“The pantry is open to any and all UNT students,” says Fritts.

Many universities are opening food pantries to help students prepare nutritious meals even on tight budgets.

The new program will help students like Molly Lowther, who sometimes finds herself struggling to buy food.

 Lowther began working for the Garland Independent School District after spending some time doing mission work. Her co-workers who had four-year degrees inspired the 27-year-old to continue her education. She first took classes at community college before transferring to UNT.

But to complete her studies, Lowther had to quit her job in Garland, and medical issues prevent her from working another job while she is in school.  She uses financial aid to cover her rent, tuition, and books, but she isn’t eligible for food stamps or unemployment benefits to help cover her food costs.

Lowther says that hunger was never an issue until she became a full-time student. She thinks it’s wonderful that students who can’t afford food will soon have an on-campus resource to help them.

 Students can visit the food pantry without an appointment. They will be asked to fill out a brief form to determine their needs. Students also can meet with a Dean of Students staff member for a consultation for further assistance or to discuss other available resources, such as:

The pantry staff will help the student select food based on their current needs. The office later will follow up with students.

The Dean of Students Office’s role is to be an advocate and a resource for all students on campus and the Dean of Students Maureen “Moe” McGuiness believes in providing services to make sure that all students’ needs are met.

The Dean of Students office hopes that the food pantry will serve as a temporary resource for students who find themselves in need. The number of college students finding themselves unable to afford food in nationally on the rise.

Lisa Henry and anthropology classSimultaneously, UNT researchers are examining the issue of food insecurity on campus. In 2012 Lisa Henry, associate professor of anthropology, conducted a study on food insecurity in North Texas. She learned that gaps in food provisions is a nationwide problem. She also learned the number of on-campus food pantries was increasing. The results from her study, coupled with findings from other research done on the issue prompted her to investigate the situation at UNT. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a situation in which consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. Henry defines food insecurity as not having enough food to survive and not having the ability to cook nutritious, healthy food. The stereotype of the starving college student can make students believe that being in college and being hungry is normal.

There are many things that can lead to food insecurity among college students- a breakdown in family relationships, medical emergencies and transferring schools are some of the things that Henry found among participants.

Henry says that her study was not meant to figure out the scope of food insecurity at UNT.

“Our study was an in-depth study on the experience and meaning of food insecurity,” says Henry.

Lowther plans on visiting the food pantry when it opens until she is able to get back on her feet. She says there can be a lot of shame and guilt that goes along with admitting that sometimes she needs help with a meal.

UNT is committed to helping its students when they need it, in the ways they need it.

—Awo Eni, student assistant, URCM

Lisa Henry, center, associate professor of anthropology, with students John Sarmiento, far left, C. Joyce Price, Allyson Cornett and Priscilla Villa and other anthropology students  worked on a class study of students who have trouble making ends meet. (Photo by Gary Payne / URCM)

Posted on: Wed 21 January 2015

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