A University of North Georgia (UNG) professor has established an initiative to help combat food insecurity at the college level.
"We had a number of students in this department or located in the Strickland building who were in need of food and housing," said Dr. Carly Redding, assistant professor of sociology and human services at UNG. "It appeared to be a problem that our students were dealing with on a daily basis. As I began investigating, I found this to be a common issue among college students all over the country and realized other universities were addressing the need by opening campus food banks."
Nationwide, more than 200 educational institutions have recognized a need for on-campus food banks, including Georgia schools like Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University. Studies conducted at the University of California – Berkeley and the University of California – Los Angeles revealed that 49 percent of their students chose to skip meals throughout the day to conserve money. Additionally, Virginia Commonwealth University reported that 57 percent of their students unwillingly go without food. The Wall Street Journal asserts that this trend could be because of rising costs in tuition, housing, books and transportation.
Many experts suggest that student food insecurity leads to absenteeism and poor grades, which is why Redding wanted to help.
Redding contacted UNG officials and discovered numerous stories of UNG students and staff facing food insecurity. Since then, Redding and her peers have been working to establish the UNG Food Pantry.
"Staff and faculty across the campus have really bought into this program as a way to help our students succeed," said Dr. Cara Ray, associate vice president and dean of students on the Gainesville and Cumming campuses. "No one should falter in their work towards a college degree because they are hungry."
"We recently received approval from the President's Cabinet and were given a space in the Student Center, Room 338, on the Gainesville Campus," Redding said.
In coordination with students in UNG's Human Services and Delivery Administration degree program, the UNG Food Pantry provides non-perishable food items and basic supplies to students and staff in need. These volunteers assist by managing the location, collecting donations, as well as keeping the pantry stocked and clean.
"This program is a great chance for our HSDA students to implement a program and to see how such programs are run from the inside out," said Ray "They can help their peers and also build their professional skills."
UNG students, faculty or staff may obtain needed items Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. in room 338 of the Gainesville Student Center by presenting their Nighthawks Card.
Those wishing to volunteer or donate to the UNG Food Pantry should email firstname.lastname@example.org.