Combating food insecurity: Baylor’s on-campus resources

The Daily Bread Cafe recently opened in the East Village Dining Commons as an affordable options for students. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Sarah Gallaher | Staff Writer

Rising tuition costs, a lack of transportation and the inability to find healthy food options are all factors that contribute to food insecurity among Baylor students. However, a variety of on-campus resources are available for students who need food assistance.

According to the Paul L. Foster Success Center, over 2,000 Baylor students experience food insecurity. Food insecurity has a wide spectrum, including both long-term and short-term needs. The Success Center offers a food insecurity self-assessment, but on-campus food resources are open to everyone.

The Store is Baylor’s largest resource. It offers a variety of fresh and packaged foods in an on-campus food pantry located in Sid Richardson Building. Marketa McCoy, The Store’s operations manager, said The Store serves a variety of students with differing financial and dietary needs.

“This resource in particular is targeted toward our students who are in need, but also those students who just find themselves needing something,” McCoy said. “It offers everything from your normal grocery items, such as eggs, bread and milk, to your quick breakfast stops, such as a piece of fruit, a pack of crackers, things like that. So it’s not specifically for those who are only food insecure.”

While not all students who utilize The Store identify as food insecure, research by Move for Hunger shows a recent increase in food insecurity among college students, with 30% of students at four-year colleges experiencing hunger.

“We have seen that there is a severe need, not just in Baylor’s population but in populations of any institution from K-12 on through college,” McCoy said. “After K-12, people still need help with food. There’s still food insecurity in undergrad because they’re not at home anymore. They don’t get those things that their parents used to take care of.”

McCoy said many students struggle to find healthy, affordable options within Baylor’s “food desert.” Without a grocery store nearby, students rely on campus dining options or the string of fast-food chains across Interstate 35.

“For students on campus, even if they had a few dollars to buy a snack or something, it might not be as healthy,” McCoy said. “If some of the other shops would just offer produce, then it would definitely be taken advantage of.”

To address this issue, The Store created an additional program known as The Fridge. The Fridge places mini fridges across campus stocked with free, healthy snack options for students. With eight locations, The Fridge is a resource for students dealing with short-term hunger who may not want to fill out a form to gain access to The Store.

In response to the lack of nutritional, affordable food on campus, Baylor Dining also launched a new program this fall: The Daily Bread Cafe. Located in East Village Dining Commons, The Daily Bread Cafe offers $2 meals with one protein, a starch, a vegetable and an optional whole fruit or drink.

“This program began in response to a need on the east side of our campus, particularly for off-campus and graduate students seeking alternative, retail-like, nutritious meals,” Shannon Sytsma, marketing manager at Baylor Dining, said. “We saw the potential in a location conveniently located near a bus stop, making it accessible to a broader student community.”

The cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. In addition, students, faculty and staff can donate nonperishable food items and unused cookware, as well as guest meal swipes for the Bear Swipe Share program. Unlike The Store and The Fridge, The Daily Bread Cafe has the ability to provide hot meals.

“With the introduction of this new concept, we can now expand our offerings to include hot meals, further enriching the dining experience available to our students,” Sytsma said. “It’s important to note that this location is open to all students, faculty and staff in support of Baylor’s on-campus food pantry.”

A lesser-known resource for students experiencing hunger is the On Campus Mom Foundation, which is a nonprofit started in 2019 to help Baylor students with basic needs. Founder Beth Dutschmann said it provides food assistance as well as other services with the help of volunteers, fundraisers and donations.

“It’s all about letting students know, No. 1, what’s already out there,” Dutschmann said. “Where we come in is we try to bridge the gaps.”

Dutschmann said the On Campus Mom Foundation’s holiday meal delivery service is one of the ways it helps bridge those gaps.

During holiday breaks like Thanksgiving and Easter, dining halls close to accommodate the needs of workers. However, this leaves students who remain on campus without options. According to Dutschmann, the nonprofit delivered 255 meals to students last Easter, compared to 116 meals the year before.

Additionally, the On Campus Mom Foundation provides dining dollars and meal swipes for students facing hunger.

“We do what we can do to make sure students have enough money in dining dollars to at least have one hot meal a day,” Dutschmann said.

Dutschmann said the nonprofit is a valuable resource for students who cannot get what they need from The Store, such as those with dietary restrictions, since Baylor’s programs rely on food donations. By filling out a form, she said students can receive additional assistance through the Supplemental Food Assistance Program, which allows them to purchase groceries of their choice.

Students experiencing hunger are not alone. Baylor encourages students to take advantage of the resources available and to destigmatize food insecurity.