A recent survey on food insecurity conducted by Associated Students, Incorporated found that 60 percent of Sacramento State students surveyed said they were hungry at some point during their college career. This fall, the student organization responded by opening a food pantry on campus where basic necessities and food are provided at no cost to students in need.
More than 100 students per week have visited the pantry since it opened in September. Any student with a valid Sacramento State ID can use the pantry once a week.
The pantry runs on a point system and each student can use up to 16 points per visit. The purpose of the point system is to make sure students can obtain a variety of items including toiletries, side dishes or products that provide more than one meal.
Third-year Sacramento State student Natalie Adefunmi considers herself food insecure. She recently lost some of her financial benefits and has been paying for food with money she had set aside for bills. Adefunmi visited the pantry for the first time after hearing about it from friends.
“There’s a stereotype that all college students are broke, we’re trying to live and get an education,” Adefunmi says. “I feel like if you need help it’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
Adefunmi begins to fill a paper grocery bag with items from the toiletries shelf. She chooses a toothbrush and deodorant, both one-point items.
“I got an Oral Colgate Extra Clean toothbrush,” she says, “It looks like the one I have but I’m not sure. I’ll get it anyway because I really need a toothbrush.”
Adefunmi walks to the three-point food items shelf. These items, including cereal, peanut butter and dry beans, can provide more than one meal. Adefunmi picks up a pack of pasta and says excitedly, “Oh this is the brand of spaghetti I get! Score!”
ASI students initiated the idea for the pantry, which is now run by ASI management. Davin Brown, the Director of Student Engagement and Outreach, works closely on the project. “Our primary focus is to make sure we provide options so students don’t have to make a decision between going to school and not eating all day,” she says, “or paying a household bill opposed to securing some groceries.”
Research conducted by Sacramento State nutrition professor Lynn Hanna, shows some correlation between not eating for a full day and the effect that has on a student’s grade point average. She says, “There’s a trend toward students not doing as well in school and their academics that’s related to one issue--food insecurity.”
Dr. Hanna argues there’s a lot more awareness of food insecurity now on campuses across the country; however, there isn’t enough research being conducted on students. She says student food insecurity is a symptom of other economic issues.
“Students have different stressors in their lives than other general households,” says Dr. Hanna. “Tuition and money for supplies and books are expenses that other families don’t have to endure on top of the expenses of living.”
Dr. Hanna says finding ways to help students meet their financial needs is the bigger issue. Having more job opportunities on campus, for example, might help students meet their financial needs.
The ASI Food Pantry, located in Yosemite Hall Room 163, is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. till 6 p.m.