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, is collecting nonperishable food items for the Campus Food Pantry, a service available to students struggling financially.
The food drive kicked off Oct. 3 and will run through Oct. 16, the day that countries worldwide celebrate annually as World Food Day.
For the food drive, Ag Council members will set up donation bins at various Ag Hill locations, including the Comer Hall lobby and the Poultry Science Building. The food pantry’s biggest needs right now are canned meats, rice, cereals, soup, pasta sauce and jelly as well as toiletries Ag Council President Will Howard Wendland says.
“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.
Currently, the inventory is particularly low, and since the food pantry relies completely on donations, the Ag Council drive could not come at a better time, Walters says.
“We typically have eight to 10 students requesting food each week, and right now, I’m not sure that I can fill their bags,” she says. “We are completely out of canned meats and cereals.”
In the meantime, Ag Council’s food drive has already scored a big haul from the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, which is donating 10 cases of peanut butter.
Wendland says Ag Council is hoping 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.”