Hundreds Depend on College Food Banks

Feb 21, 2020

Many schools around Virginia try to attract students from low-income families with scholarships, grants and loans – but with the cost of living going up, some of those kids run out of cash.  That’s prompted universities to open food pantries.

The University of Mary Washington offers free food, clothing, shoes, bedding and toiletries to students in need.
Credit RadioIQ

In the attic of an administration building at the University of Mary Washington there’s a large room known as the Eagle Resource Closet.  Professor Leslie Martin says you might not know it was there.

“It does provide a lot of privacy,” she explains.

And that’s by design.  When the university questioned students they said anonymity was important, and a food pantry was definitely needed.

“We did a survey of students to see how much need there was, and actually almost a quarter of our student population reported being food insecure at some point,” Martin says.

So far, the school has found it easy to fill pantry shelves with donations.

“We’ve got some breakfast foods, some snacks," says Martin. "We’ve got a lot of canned vegetables. We just had this big fridge donated, so right now we’ve got some fruit and some string cheese, but we hope to make partnerships with local farmers to try and get some produce."

And those who visit find more than food.  The closet offers toiletries, bedding, clothes and shoes.

Mary Washington is not alone.  UVA, Virginia Tech, VCU and George Mason also have food banks, and nearly 700 other schools have joined a national association of campus pantries.