Student food pantry has significant spike in use

The Division of Student Affairs celebrated the ribbon cutting ceremony and open house of the new Student Food Pantry location in GC 319 at the Modesto Maidique Campus.

“We are excited this day is finally here,” said Joanna Garcia, associate director for the Center for Leadership and Service who oversees the program at MMC.

Previously housed in Deuxieme Maison, the Student Food Pantry originally debuted in the fall of 2014 with the purpose to serve FIU students in need.

Why is a food pantry necessary on campus? Food insecurity is surprisingly common at colleges and universities across the country. The lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable and nutritious food presents a serious challenge for today’s college students.

In 2016, the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center and the Student Public Interest Research Groups collectively surveyed 3,765 colleges in 12 states attending eight community colleges and 26 four-year colleges and universities. The study found 48 percent of respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days.

FIU’s own student pantry has seen a 472 percent increase in usage since it first opened its doors. Between 2014 and 2015, the Student Food Pantry received 210 visits and distributed 1,940 pounds of food to FIU students compared to 1,295 visits and 9,390 pounds of food distributed between 2016 and 2017.

“We’re not done with the academic year and we have already surpassed last year’s numbers,” Garcia said. “Obviously, there is a need from our student population to have this service provided.”

Attendees of the ribbon cutting event heard a first-hand account of how the Student Food Pantry has impacted the life of an FIU student. “I’d probably be dead without the student pantry,” he said. “As extreme and crazy as that sounds, it’s probably true.”

In addition to impacting students’ physical health, a lack of food also harms students’ educational efforts.

“We know what happens when you don’t eat,” said Larry Lunsford, vice president for Student Affairs. “It affects academics, studying, test taking and everything else.”

Food pantries assist students at both campuses. In addition to the pantry at GC 319, students can also access the Student Food Pantry at Biscayne Bay Campus located in WUC 307 and overseen by the department of Healthy Living Program.

Both pantries are donations-based and depend on the generosity of staff, faculty, members of the community and student groups. “I’m asking that we all make a promise that our FIU pantries will never be empty,” Lunsford urged.

Most recently, the FIU Libraries held a food drive where it forgave fines in exchange for food donations for the pantry. Thanks to the“Food for Fines” initiative students wrote off 77 overdue fees and contributed 91 food pantry items.

Monetary donations from donors such as Wells Fargo, Publix and Panorama Travel have also been integral to the success and sustainability of the program allowing for organizers to replenish and restock the pantry with essential items.

“We really count on our internal and external partners and we could certainly use the help of new partnerships,” Garcia said.

The MMC Student Food Pantry is located in GC 319 and is open Mondays from noon to 3 p.m., Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The BBC Food Pantry is located in WUC 307 and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Important information about the Student Food Pantry

Who may use the pantry?

The Student Pantry is available to currently enrolled FIU students. Students can access the pantry once a week taking up to 10 pounds of food each week. No proof of need is required.

What do you need to bring to access the pantry?

A Panther ID card.

What items are available at the pantry?

Non-perishable food items and toiletries.

How can I donate?

Food donations to the MMC Student Food Pantry can be brought directly to the pantry in GC 319 or to the Center for Leadership and Service in GC 242.

Food donations to the BBC Student Food Pantry can be brought to the Healthy Living Program’s office in WUC 307 or the Center for Leadership and Service in WUC 353.

Monetary donations to support the operations of the pantries can be made online via LEADSERVE.FIU.EDU.