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How Campuses Are Ensuring Students Don’t Go Hungry This Break: Takeaways from our November Swipe Session

Nationally, one in three college students experiences food insecurity. For many of these students, they can find refuge at the dining hall with meal plans or at campus food pantries, which provides much-needed resources throughout the school year. During campus closures such as those around the holidays, many reliable safe havens like these shut down with the rest of campus. In some cases, students who remain on campus are left with no on-campus food solutions, rendering them with sudden and abrupt food insecurity.

And yet, many of our trailblazing campus partners have found creative and impactful ways to meet the basic needs of students who remain on campus during closures. Our partners shared how they are going above and beyond to ensure students have nourishing and nutritious food options during school breaks at our November Swipe Session.

BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY’S CAMPUS FOOD PANTRY

“It’s important to create spaces students want to be in, feel warmth, valued, and cared for. Students have said to us ‘This is the one place on campus where I feel I belong.’” 
– Emily, Boise State University’s Campus Food Pantry

At Boise State University’s Campus Food Pantry, they have seen an impressive 279% uptick in pantry usage year over year. Having supported over 1,500 students in October 2022 alone, the Campus Food Pantry has become an integral part of campus culture. While hours do change with university closures, including holidays and spring break, they have created programs to address their students’ needs.

Three years ago, they kicked off their Thanksgiving Meal Kit Program, which now serves 200 students and 77 staff. These kits  feed up to four people and include traditional Thanksgiving meal items like turkey, sides, and pies. The barrier to entry is low: those in need of these meal kits can complete a Google Form, which are honored on a first come, first served basis. 

For the December campus closures, the Campus Food Pantry works in partnership with their Campus Housing to send out a survey to identify who plans to stay on campus during the holidays. They then create Holiday Meal Boxes that are left at the front desks of dorms of students who will remain on campus through the holiday. As they build these boxes, the Campus Food Pantry is mindful of what they include– for example, if canned items are included, they’ll be sure to only send cans that have a “pop top” versus one that needs a can opener. They also include community resources as well as transportation options, so students can get a sense of what campus shuttles can take them to nearby grocery stores and back.

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS’S FULL CIRCLE FOOD PANTRY

“People really remember this program. A lot of folks have an emotional tie. We get an influx of phone calls and Facebook messages of people wanting to access these programs yearly.” 
– Emma, University of Arkansas’s Full Circle Pantry

Serving more than 1,200 families per month, including students, staff, and other faculty, University of Arkansas’ Full Circle Food Pantry makes a tremendous impact on their campus community. To ensure these 1,200 families per month continue to have their basic needs met during campus closures, the student-led and student-run Full Circle Food Pantry has four meal basket programs throughout the year including: 1) Thanksgiving baskets with everything needed to make Thanksgiving meals; 2) Winter baskets for students to take home over winter break; 3) Spring Cleaning Baskets with cleaning supplies; and 4) Picnic Baskets for summer break. Each of these baskets are built and completed with seasonal and relevant basic needs items. Students can request baskets via a form in their pantry or an online form. 

In addition, over this 2022 Winter Break, the Full Circle Food Pantry will provide hot meals for students staying on campus, allow the campus pantry to be accessible during campus closures, and leave food in dorms for those who still live on campus– ensuring all students know that their campus is there to support them.

OTHER PROGRAMMING IDEAS

Our campus partners above excellent examples– and there are so many other ways college campuses can support their students, no matter where you are in your food security program journey:

  • Provide hot meals via community dinners: even if it’s just one meal, that’s one less meal that students have to worry about. 
  • Stock residence hall fridges: bring food directly to students where they are, making it even more accessible for them.
  • Provide campus closure meal scholarships: if dining halls are open, grant select students with hot meals to keep them nourished.
  • Expand pantry coverage: if some students are choosing to stay on campus, see if they can volunteer at the food pantry so additional hours can be covered. 
  • Increase any existing limits: if your food pantry has a limit to how much food can be taken at any given time, consider lifting these limits during campus closures.
  • Share local food bank and pantry info: arm your students with other local resources they can get support from. 
  • Keep dining halls open longer: advocate to ensure students are able to access hot meals beyond just a small window of time during school breaks.
  • Cash is king: gift cards are a great option as students may be limited by transportation or not having tools like a can opener. Give them the freedom to buy what they need from local stores.

As we head into another holiday break, students who remain on campus should not be limited in their access to meals. We’re grateful to our partners like these who are ensuring students have the resources they need to remain nourished during campus closures.

Want to learn more? Watch the November Swipe Session: Hunger Doesn’t Take Breaks!

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