Food pantry shelves hunger

In an effort to ease students’ financial insecurity, ASLCC’s sustainable food committee has set out to open a food pantry for students sometime in the next two weeks.

The Torch editorial board supports the actions of the committee and all who have helped to bring this service to our student body.

When the committee surveyed 225 students last spring, 77 percent indicated they would use a campus food pantry. This is just one hint of the need on a campus where 68 percent of 2012-13 students reported an income at or below the poverty level, according to the same survey.

The 2009 Recovery Act put in place to temporarily boost the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — once known as food stamps — is scheduled to end Nov. 1. It will result in benefit cuts to every SNAP recipient, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Cuts will be based on the size of the household, according to the center. Households of one will receive a deduction of $11 per month. Households of two will receive a $20 deduction. Households of three will receive a $29 deduction. Households of four will lose $36, while minimum benefits will be reduced by $1.

These cuts will hurt many Lane students. An $11 reduction may not sound like much, but it’s a real blow

to anyone living in poverty, and the food pantry could help keep those students from going hungry.

Lane’s student body has a much higher rate of poverty than residents of Lane county as a whole, where approximately 17 percent live below the poverty level, according the 2012-13 U.S. Census Bureau.

“There’s so many people going hungry in the U.S., and people just don’t understand it,” Lane sustainability coordinator Michael Weed said.

To ease the burden, the food pantry, sponsored by Food for Lane County, will distribute on campus to students.

After a nine-month campaign the sustainable food committee members think they’ve found a home for their food pantry.

“Right now we’re just waiting to get an approval for the budget,” Weed said, and the approval could arrive “any day.”

The potential location is in the Center Building on the north side of the building’s ground floor, adjacent to the tutoring lab.

Weed said Brian Kelly — vice president of college services — brought the location to the committee’s attention after hearing ASLCC President Paul Zito and OSPIRG field organizer Darlene Azarmi speak at the Oct. 9 Board of Education meeting.

The help was overwhelming, Weed said.

With the cost of living continuing to rise along with tuition, students are finding themselves choosing tuition and other living costs over nutrition.

The food pantry will help ease students’ stress by offering resources to the population that needs it most while providing privacy for those who need it.

“There’s another advantage to this,” Weed said. “Say that someone is not comfortable being out in the open. There is a back door, stairwell and elevator that come up to the back way, so people can totally have their privacy.”

The food pantry is hoping to open its doors to students this November, pending the approval of its budget. “It’s really awesome,” Weed said.

Know that if you’re in need, there will soon be a safe, private place on campus to get food and other assistance. We applaud the members of the sustainable food committee for taking action to address a dire need at Lane. We also ask students, staff and faculty who can afford to support the pantry to do so through donations or by volunteering to take action.

The action of these students leaders will mean fewer students will have to choose between paying tuition and buying food. And that can only help students as they begin their career path with an education at Lane.