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Student Government column

36 percent of college students across the United States were food insecure in the last 30 days, according to “Still Hungry and Homeless in College”, a report published this month by Sara Goldrick-Rab and the Wisconsin Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education (HOPE) Lab.

Food insecurity describes the inability to acquire or lack of access to safe, nutritious foods. Not only is it linked to, in the most extreme cases, physiological hunger, but also is associated academic performance, poorer health, depression, and higher stress. Often, food insecurity stems from the inability to afford safe, healthy foods, or the lack of geographic access to those foods, or both. Lower rates of eligibility for public assistance for college students and stigma attached to socioeconomic status also present additional barriers to food security.

As a response to this growing issue and to find ways to better support students on campus who may be struggling with basic needs issues such as food insecurity, the Graduate Student Assembly has created the Basic Needs Working Group. Since its initiation, the working group has been focusing its efforts on researching the feasibility and implementation of an on-campus food pantry to address the geographical and financial barriers to food security for the Carnegie Mellon community.

Basic Needs has also been meeting with the Campus Food Insecurity Committee, composed of relevant and interested members of administration from across the university, to discuss implementation and other ways Carnegie Mellon can support members of the community who are experiencing food insecurity. Specifically, Basic Needs is looking to get support to meet the funding, space, and staffing needs of its proposal. Currently, it is looking to partner with the community food banks, 412 Food Rescue, Student Leadership, Involvement, and Civic Engagement (SLICE), Health, Wellness, and Dining Services to make the food pantry a reality.

The current proposed model is similar to the food pantry operated by the University of Pittsburgh. The Pitt Pantry is a student volunteer-run, shop-through food pantry open to all of the Pitt community, including students, staff, and faculty. As part of our research, Basic Needs and the members of the Campus Food Insecurity Committee are in the process of touring the Pitt Pantry and gaining a deeper understanding of its operations, and how those operations would translate to a similar pantry on Carnegie Mellon’s campus.

Basic Needs hopes to begin marketing and holding events before the end of the semester. It is currently planning to host an end-of-the-year food drive and Entropy drive to collect initial stock to be used once the pantry is open to the community. It is working towards having a first iteration of the pantry open by next semester.

If you are interested in tackling basic needs issues on campus, considering joining the Basic Needs Working Group! For more information or to express interest, please email Sarah Pesi at spesi@andrew.cmu.edu.