February Food Drive: How Food Insecurity Impacts Students

Pictured (left to right) Current Pantry Employees: Joshua Kahsen, Pantry Staff and Frankie Mora, Pantry Coordinator.

Students may have noticed the Food Pantry signs around campus, but they may not have noticed the food insecurity that the place addresses. Time, knowledge, and money are a few barriers that prevent college students from being food secure. It may be easy to discount these fears but students facing food insecurity are not that rare. More than 40% of college students will deal with food insecurity while they are in college.

The Siskiyou spoke with Frankie Mora (he/him) Pantry Coordinator and Joshua Kahsen (he/him) Pantry Staff to talk about the annual February Food Drive.  Mora, Kahsen, and the rest of the pantry staff do work behind the scenes that doesn’t often get recognition. Physical and emotional labor are important parts of keeping the pantry open. Work such as organizing the food drive, advocating for the program, and stalking the shelves, ensure that students have an organized and welcoming place. Both Mora and Kahsen spoke about how exhausting the work can be but also how valuable it is.

Students of all sorts use the food pantry. Students who live on campus and off campus. Students who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and those who just need to grab a snack while they are on campus. The pantry is open to all. Students only need to provide their 940 number and their email. This removes the mountains of paperwork needed to sign up for other forms of food assistance which can be difficult for students due to time, familial and residential restraints. One goal of the pantry, Mora and Kahsen agreed, is to relieve even just one of the pressures that students experience. If students can come to the food pantry and get a meal, they can remove that worry and focus on their classes. “(The food pantry is) our solution and offering to mitigate food insecurity for students,” Mora said.

The food pantry is important for SOU students because not everyone has the privilege of familial support to fall back on. Some people are making their own way without their families, others come from families that are struggling to make ends meet without the added burden of college. These students should be able to invest in their futures and the food pantry helps them do that. Higher education is increasingly an expectation to get a job in the United States, but it is also expensive. Many people can’t afford to attend college but also can’t afford not to. Many students are struggling to overcome generational poverty. College is a huge strain and burden, but it is something many people need to get their lives to a happy and livable place.  

At the end of the day, universities are businesses, and they have no obligation to act in the student’s best interest. That’s not to say they don’t but many students fall through the cracks. The food pantry is a place where students’ well-being is a priority. These programs exist through student fees, created to recognize the issues and to alleviate some pressure. A place on campus that physically offers support to any who need it.

February is the annual food drive month here at SOU so how can people help?

The food and money donations from the February food drive support the pantry for the entire year. Money is just as beneficial as food donations. The food pantry has to pay people for all the labor required to keep the pantry running. It also uses the money year-round to supplement donations and help during low donation months.

As for physical donations the most useful are nonperishables like soups, ramen, pasta sauces, rice, beans, canned fruit, mac and cheese, dried milk, cereal, and canned meats. Food can’t be opened and has to be professionally packaged to distribute so people know what they’re getting. The food pantry can’t put unpackaged produce on the shelf so make sure if students donate, it is professionally packaged with nutrition information. They also have hygiene products such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and menstrual products. 

Also, the food drive is more of a challenge for faculty and staff than it is for students. So students do not need to worry if they are unable to donate. The goal is to help those facing food insecurity and not hinder those who aren’t. For students, the goal is to increase understanding and advocate for the pantry.  

For those who do wish to donate, they can bring donations to SU 310 during office hours or place them in the barrels around campus. If students have a favorite building that they want to help ‘win’, they can place their donations in that building’s donation box. Students can also give money by using the CR code on posters around campus or they can go to giving.sou.edu/food/donation.

For more information, email foodpantry@sou.edu, visit https://studentlife.sou.edu/food-pantry/, or stop in SU 310 Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays 10:00am-4:00pm and Fridays 10:00am-1:00pm.

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