Link to original article in The Daily Iowan: http://daily-iowan.com/2016/05/11/imu-food-pantry-set-to-go/
By Tom Ackerman
The stereotypical college ramen diet can now be broken.
After months of planning, a food pantry aimed at University of Iowa students and staff will open in late May, with the only requirement being a UI ID for someone to be a recipient. Organizers held an open house Tuesday in its hotel-room location in the IMU.
“We’re not going to give students ramen or chips,” said Benjamin Marks, a co-director of the pantry. “We want to fulfill student lives and help with their academics by offering nutritious and healthy food.”
(Disclosure: Marks worked previously as DI Metro editor).
The pantry will be open year-round with limited hours over the summer.
UI Student Government offered $10,000 in start-up funds to the program, and the Association of Residence Halls offered $2,000, which Marks said was not requested.
Marks began working to create the pantry with other students and staff at the UI around four months ago. The project started after he learned food insecurity is a serious problem for college students, affecting 30 percent of those in college, according to Feeding America.
Organizers of the pantry conducted a survey at the UI and found that around 25 percent of students are food insecure, which consequently negatively affects GPA, Marks said. The UI will be the second to last Big Ten school to create a food pantry.
When speaking with groups on campus, Marks said many responded similarly, “Wait, this is an issue?” people would say. “We need to fix this.”
Sarah Benson Witry, the food bank and emergency assistance director at the Johnson County Crisis Center, said she knows students and staff from the university are clients at the county food bank through personal interactions.
“The reality is college students receive a lot of debt. They may not come into the college with a lot of money to pay bills,” Benson Witry said. “Students may not be able to work enough hours to cover basic expenses, such as food.”
She said she expects to see a similar number of people at the county pantry with more people going the pantry on campus.
“Having a pantry on campus makes food more accessible to students,” she said “It sends a message that this reality is known, and it is perceived as a problem that people want to see addressed.”
Research and data was included in a 12-page funding proposal to UI Student Government. Organizers hope to see the pantry largely funded through future fundraisers and donations, but as a student organization, they may also ask for funds when needed.
UI junior Mareshah McCarthy attended the open house to volunteer her time when the pantry opens. She said she came to learn more about the pantry and see what she could do to help.
“Students now have a place on campus where If they’re struggling or need assistance, they know where to go,” she said.
“There are a lot of people struggling with this,” McCaarthy said. “After learning about the pantry, I can send someone here and know they’re going to get help.”