Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Starving Students

Posted By on April 6, 2016, 4:00 AM

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When I went to college (U of U and Westminster) I lived in the dorms and ate at the cafeteria three times a day. When I went back for another degree I was in an apartment and living on ramen and cereal, going to school full time and working several jobs. I was grateful to have a grandparent that helped in emergencies and had access to grants and loans to pay the costs.

The U of U Wellness Center recently put together a questionnaire that discovered students and some staff needed a food pantry on campus. Many groups took a look at the data collected and jumped to action. Kim Hall from the Women's Resource Center says, "I think most people who are not intimately involved with a specific population of students on campus simply can't imagine a food scarcity issue or have difficulty imagining other people's day-to-day existence." Within months of the study, the university apparently became one of the last state-funded higher-ed schools in Utah to establish a food bank for staff and students. This one is being run by volunteers out of the main bookstore on campus. Folks in need show up with their U of U ID badge, and the bookstore will donate a bag to allow those in need to 1. fill up the bag and 2. walk out as if they had been shopping so as to not be stigmatized.

Here's another eye opener: Many are homeless students living in their cars going to the university. Examples include: 1. first generation students who have little experience managing financial realities and responsibilities; 2. LGBT students who come out to their parents and are kicked out of their homes while attending school and lose a place to stay and parental financial support; 3. international students who have a hard time accessing funds from across the sea and can't work more than 20 hours per week to earn money (it's the law); 4. single parents whose partners don't regularly pay alimony/child support to them and working parents with special-needs kids with massive medical bills and 5. students who themselves have mental-health issues that lead them to bad housing and/or financial choices. Luckily, Hall is heading up a taskforce to address these concerns.

This isn't just a U of U thing anymore. Pop-up pantries are appearing at high schools around the state. This is the new norm—the distance between the haves and the have-nots is getting greater. If you can help, there's a school or food bank that needs your kind donations every single day around our great state.

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