Food insecurity—the lack of access to affordable, nutritious food—is surprisingly common at colleges and universities across the country, and Auburn University is no exception.
To help address the issue at Auburn, the College of Agriculture’s Agriculture Student Council, better known as Ag Council, collected nonperishable food items for the Campus Food Pantry, a service available to students struggling financially.
The food drive kicked off Oct. 3 and ran through Oct. 16, the day that countries worldwide celebrate annually as World Food Day.
For the food drive, Ag Council members set up donation bins at various Ag Hill locations, including the Comer Hall lobby and the Poultry Science Building. Ag Council President Will Howard Wendland said the food pantry’s biggest needs were canned meats, rice, cereals, soup, pasta sauce and jelly as well as toiletries. The food drive got a big boost when the Alabama Peanut Producers Association donated 10 cases of peanut butter.
“We’re just trying to collect as much food as possible,” Wendland says. “Most students are fortunate to not have to worry about food, so we may not realize that one of our classmates is struggling with enough resources to even feed himself. We just want to be able to help our fellow students and take away that worry.”
The Campus Food Pantry was established in 2012 and is a service of Auburn Cares, an Office of Student Affairs division that serves as an advocate, liaison or resource to students in times of need, distress or emergency.
Sarah Grace Walters, Auburn Cares coordinator, says the number of students requesting food assistance has increased each year. So has student awareness of the Campus Food Pantry and its policies.
Requests for relief are totally anonymous and do not require clients to verify financial need. Students fill out a one-time application and then submit food-preference forms weekly or when in need. Food pantry volunteers fill unmarked bags with the requested items, based on what is in stock. Walters says that she typically fills bags for eight to 10 students a week.
Prior to the Ag Council’s food drive, the inventory was particularly low, and since the food pantry relies completely on donations, the Ag Council drive could not have come at a better time, Walters says.
Wendland says Ag Council hoped to collect enough donations to sustain the food pantry’s stock for a while, adding that the effort is a natural extension of the College of Agriculture’s mission.
“We are the food college,” he says. “We help feed the world, so we can certainly help feed our classmates.”