His stomach had been empty for too long. The student walked into the Crimson Cupboard, a student food pantry at Indiana University’s Campus View Apartments, to see an assortment of neatly stacked foods. The student filled out a quick form and left with bags of groceries and an expression of relief.
Though Erika Wheeler, the donations coordinator for the Crimson Cupboard, witnesses this heartbreaking situation often, she said there is still a negative stigma surrounding the idea of needing food.
“There’s no reason to be ashamed about being hungry,” Wheeler said. “If students are in a situation where they can’t afford or access that food, all we want to do is help.”
One in seven people in Indiana struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America. Unfortunately, this statistic includes college students. Although you can’t readily see hunger at IU, it is a condition for many students without extra money. The Crimson Cupboard has seen its fair share of students since opening – 50 to be exact – and IU’s Student Advocates Office has seen a good amount, too.
Sally Jones, director of the Student Advocates Office (SAO), said lack of access to stable housing and food are serious threats to continuing in school.
“Even if it’s only one percent of the (university) population, that should never be a reason why you can’t go to school,” Jones said.
Although IU offers options like the Crimson Cupboard and emergency financial assistance, Jones said more programs can be implemented to curb student hunger. Here are some ideas successful programs implemented at other universities.
1. Meal Point Donations
Many colleges, like Berkeley University and Barnard College, created a program for students to donate unused meal points. Hungry students can apply for these meal points to use for the remainder of the semester. Jones said this program would take a lot of bookkeeping, but it is possible at IU.
2. Food Stamp Assistance
James Dubick, organizer of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, said some universities, such as the University of New Mexico, offer services to help students apply for food stamps. Counselors and volunteers in certain departments could aid students in applying and understanding the program. Because the SAO partners with many departments on campus such as Residential Programs and Services (RPS) and the financial aid office, this could possibly be put into place for IU’s campus.
Jones said the Crimson Cupboard could partner with a food sustainability group on campus, but would have to get a food handler’s license issued by the State of Indiana to bring this program to IU. She said they also may need a larger, permanent space and more refrigerator space.
3. Redistributing Leftover Food from Dining Halls
Many dining halls on IU’s campus dispose of large amounts of food. Dubick suggests instead of throwing food in the trash, it could be distributed to students in need. Colleges such as University of Maryland donate the food to local shelters, according to the Food Recovery Network. Jones said the pantry could also address this as a possible service, but would have to partner with RPS to make it happen.