Food insecurity is surprisingly high among college students. About 36% of university students in the United States are food insecure, according to a study conducted by Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab.
Leo Food Pantry, which was put in place in 2016, is coordinated by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and runs on both food and monetary donations, the latter primarily coming from ULV staff.
Not only is the pantry a necessary and valuable addition to the University, it is essential to maintain the pantry because it is assisting our student population, who would otherwise be left hungry.
As for the University of La Verne, a group of honors students conducted a survey about food insecurity as part of their senior project. From the 200 responses they received, they learned that one third of the student population faces food insecurity. The Leo Pantry exists specifically to address student food insecurity, and its user base is only going up.
Food insecurity is a larger problem than we thought, and we should not assume that we are shielded from the problem by virtue of attending a private institution.
The program gives out monthly food boxes to those who sign up, and the boxes this month were distributed at Vista La Verne Residence Hall. The boxes are meant to last a week. They include canned soup, beans, vegetables, pasta, tomato sauce, crackers, peanut butters, fruit cups, canned meats, breakfast items and prepared dinners such as Mac n Cheese. Those who sign up can disclose any food restrictions they have and get a customized package.
The Campus Times asked Myrna Hugo, office manager at the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, for the raw numbers.
Each month, the Leo Pantry averages between 60 and 65 users, though it once peaked at 84. Sixty two percent of users are traditional undergraduate students. Adult undergraduate students make up 18%, and graduate students 20%. A bit of a discrepancy between sign-ups and pick-ups exist; Hugo said the average pick-up rate is between 65% and 70%.
During the 2017-2018 academic school year, the Leo Food Pantry cost between $800 and $900 to fund. This term, it shot up to between $1,000 and $1,100. Hugo attributed the increase in costs to the increase in users per month.
The common perception around private universities is that they are expensive and inaccessible, which would translate to a wealthier student body due to financial barriers that would stop students with lower incomes from attending.
However, this does not apply to every student at the University. ULV freshmen receive, on average, a financial aid package of $35,259 and 98% of freshmen receive aid, mostly in the form of scholarships and grants, according to collegefactual.com.
It should then be less of a surprise that some of our peers face food insecurity. We should stop stigmatizing the food insecurity our peers face and applaud the efforts Leo Food Pantry takes to get some food on their tables.
You can sign up for the Leo Food Pantry package or give a donation to the program at laverne.edu/chaplain/student-food-pantry.