AUSTIN (KXAN) — The pandemic increased the number of Americans going to bed hungry, but one of those groups experiencing food insecurity is one you might not think about – college students.
“I was speaking to a student last year who told me before they found out about the food pantry, they were eating one meal a day,” said Liza Manjarrez, senior associate director of campus ministry for St. Edwards University.
St. Edwards University recently received a $10,000 grant from Central Texas Food Bank. The money will go towards restocking the food pantry, but also will go towards paying two interns to help students who are facing food insecurity.
“This was fully stocked at the very beginning of December, and as you can see, it is being well utilized,” said Manjarrez.
Manjarrez said the school has identified about 700 students who face food insecurity, but that number could be much higher. She added that many of the students are international students.
“There are definitely costs to a university education that are not included in that tuition, and one of those things is housing, food and books,” said Manjarrez.
Texas State is also seeing students who need a helping hand. Last year they averaged about 75 students stopping by the food pantry they have on campus, but this year the numbers have increased.
“We are noticing about an average of 100 participants per week,” said Dr. Lesli Biediger-Friedman, associate professor in the School of Family & Consumer Sciences at Texas State University.
In 2017, Texas State performed an assessment to paint a better picture of how many students needed help.
“During that time, more than 40% of Texas State students were experiencing food insecurity,” said Biediger-Friedman
That information led to the start of “Bobcat Bounty,” which is the first student-run, on-campus food pantry.
The majority of the food comes from the Hays County Food Bank.
Pandemic relief has helped by broadening qualifications to allow more college students to be eligible for SNAP benefits.
“However, once we start to see expiration dates come for those policies…It is something we might want to pay attention to,” said Biediger-Friedman.
Researchers found more than one in three college students do not have enough to eat, and one of the contributing factors is that nearly 70% of those college students who are potentially eligible for SNAP benefits for food do not receive them.
Both St. Edwards and Texas State hope to raise more awareness about their programs to help students.
“I think that if a lot of people knew more about it, they’d want the support. I think when you talk from student to student, they are like, ‘We need this or I wish I knew about this a year ago,'” said Ronesia Williams with Bobcat Bounty.
Find more information about Bobcat Bounty here.
Find more information about St. Edwards programs to help students here.