August 13, 2018 7:00 a.m.
Food insecurity is becoming a growing concern among colleges across the country, and it’s no different in Pennsylvania.
Following in the footsteps of other local schools, Moravian College is opening a food pantry for this school year to provide basic food and hygiene necessities to students in need.
The food pantry — named Mo’s Cupboard after one of the school President Bryon Grigsby’s greyhounds — is set to open on campus by the start of the fall semester.
“[Food insecurity] is a national trend and our student affairs folks noticed it more and more,” said Michael Corr, director of marketing and communications at Moravian College. “We’ve gotten feedback from some Moravian students and recent alumni that they dealt with food insecurity.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
The idea began last school year and came to fruition this summer when the food pantry informally began in the office of Lisa Johnson, student success program coordinator.
Johnson said about seven students used the pantry this summer but she’s excited to offer it across the campus in the fall when it moves to its own office on campus.
“This is a really positive thing for the community and I hope the word spreads to the students who need it most,” Johnson said.
A survey reported by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 36 percent of college students were food insecure in the 30 days prior to the survey, and a similar number lacked a secure place to live.
Those numbers are higher among community college students, where 42 percent reported being food insecure and 46 percent were housing insecure. Northampton Community College started its food pantry in 2016.
Lehigh Carbon Community College is exploring the idea, according to its website.
Among four-year schools, Kutztown University started its food pantry about three years ago, and East Stroudsburg University and Cedar Crest College have ones put in place.
In addition to dealing with food and housing insecurity, students in unstable financial situations are also at risk of seeing their grades suffer.
In the same survey of college students, more than half of the students who reported receiving Ds and Fs were food insecure, and more than 40 percent were at the very lowest level of food security.
Johnson estimated that more than 90 percent of Moravian’s students receive some form of financial aid.
Even with the help, she said, more than 41 percent of resident students and 54 percent of off-campus and commuter students don’t have enough money to cover all their expenses.
“When they’re spending a lot of time thinking about choosing between food and books, that just adds to the normal stress of what it takes to pass classes,” said Kevin Hartshorn, dean of student success.
The temporary location for the pantry currently has nonperishable food but once it fully opens, Hartshorn and Johnson said, they hope to expand their inventory with a refrigerator and have other necessities such as toiletries and school supplies.
Mo’s Cupboard gets its supplies through community donation but Johnson added that they are in talks with Second Harvest to get items through the food bank.
Hartshorn said the food pantry is just part of a bigger conversation the school is having to make a “more systemic way to ensure all of our students are feeling supported.”
He added that the financial aid, housing and other departments all either have programs in place or are in talks to help students with emergency funding, paying for textbooks and more.
“I hope this makes a big difference, not just in terms of physically having food but also knowing there’s a community here and we hear them and we’re trying to help them be successful,” Johnson said.
This article appeared in The Morning Call on August 13, 2018. To read the article on the Morning Call website, please click here: Moravian College opens food pantry for students in need