By Courtney Sosnowski | Reporter
As the semester comes to a close, Baylor’s efforts to combat food insecurity among the student body are continuing to develop. Following a donation collection from the all-university Thanksgiving dinner, Baylor will open “The Store,” a food pantry located in the basement of Sid Richardson on Dec. 1. This will officially launch the first phase of a project to ensure that all students have reliable access to nutritious food.
The research that led to The Store initiative was conducted by Cara Cliburn Allen, a graduate student studying student hunger, and Dr. Nathan Allman, an associate professor in educational leadership. Allen and Allman have already put their research to use by organizing several free farmer’s markets on Baylor’s campus, which last semester had 1487 attendees.
“These other events are wonderful and we need them,” Michele Cohenour, Director of Student Success Initiatives, said of the free farmer’s markets. “Very front-facing, out on the lawn kind of things where it’s very visible for students. But we wanted something that’s more sustained and sustainable so that if a student was in need on a Tuesday, and we weren’t having an event until two weeks from now, students would have access to what they need.”
During the 2016-2017 school year, Allen and Allman sent surveys to 1500 sophomore through fifth year undergraduates, and received 289 responses. Sixty-three percent, or 182 of respondents experience food insecurity, or unreliable access to nutritious food. The data further showed that most experiencing food insecurity tend to live off-campus and be female rather than male. A quarter of the respondents are transfer students.
“One thing that I’ve learned as a part of this initiative is that there can be a lot of shame associated with not having enough food,” Cohenour said. “So it’s not necessarily something easy for students to tell their friends. I had a young woman this Fall tell me that she is still going out to dinner with her friends when they ask, but she’ll just say she’s not hungry.”
Building upon last year’s research, freshman, transfers and other students new to Baylor’s campus were surveyed this Fall. Two hundred and thirty one students indicated that they are unable to afford three meals a day. This research projects that 900 undergraduate students struggle to afford three meals a day.
Many universities across the country are fighting against food insecurity on their campus. Texas A&M has a student-run food pantry founded in 2013. Megan Ford, the Executive Director of The 12th Can, started as a volunteer but fell in love with the service aspect of the organization. She said that before her involvement, she did not know that food insecurity was a problem on her campus. The 12th Can is open every other week and serves 80 to 100 students, faculty and staff regularly.
Students who shop at The Store can remain anonymous. After selecting items, they will fill out a form with their student ID number, and answer a few questions so that donations can continue to best meet student needs.
Coming out of phase one, which primarily consists of collecting donations and assessing student need, the program can continue to grow over the 2018-2019 school year. Expansion could lead to official sponsorship by the Central Texas Food Bank, access to refrigerated items, and expansion across campus.
Internal Vice President Elizabeth Larson hopes that student government will become more involved.
“I’m looking for student government to contribute with an industrialized refrigerator, swipe access and other ways to just give back to our own community and kind of work on that Christian commitment that means so much to me.”
The Store still has a great need for donations of non-perishable items like canned chicken, pasta and breakfast foods. Donations can be taken to the Student Success Initiatives office in the lower level east wing of the Paul L. Foster Success Center.