CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids has come up with a way to help students who have food insecurity issues. On Thursday, the school opened the “Mustang Market”—a new on campus food pantry providing free assistance for students, staff and faculty.
Students look at the selection at the Mustang Market at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. The university opened a food pantry for students on Thursday, April 5, 2018. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)
The opening comes on the heels of a national report this week that found ten percent of U.S. college students have gone a whole day without eating in the past month. The report also found 36 percent of students had food insecurity problems and said they didn’t always get enough to eat.
But food pantries at colleges and universities aren’t that unusual anymore.
Laurie Hamen, Mt. Mercy University President, noted that five years ago there were just 15 food pantries on campuses. Currently, there are more than 600.
Anyone connected with Mt. Mercy can come to the pantry, open Tuesday through Thursday, for assistance with no questions asked. The pantry is located in a room at the university’s library.
Some at the grand opening event Thursday noted that people sometimes joke about college students running out of money and living on nothing but ramen noodles for a week.
One student, Ronetta Jenkins, says food security is a problem at any age.
“You don’t want to be a bother to anyone or a financial burden so you just kind of survive in a way day to day,” Jenkins said.
Another student, Caleb Boeding who will volunteer at the pantry, says students need to get over the idea they shouldn’t ask for help if they need it.
“I think at first there might be an embarrassment factor but I think once people warm up to the idea and think about it at least half the students will start to use this,” he said.
Food pantry managers say they’ll depend on both donated items and purchases from the HACAP food reservoir to keep the pantry stocked.
The pantry will operate on a choice system with users able to take as much as they want without restrictions.