IUPUI opens food pantry to feed students in need

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College students struggling to feed their minds are going hungry. After paying for tuition, books and rent, many are finding too little left to buy enough food.

Today IUPUI joined a growing number of universities. Students opened a food pantry to help feed their classmates.

The sprawling downtown campus is the last place you expect to find anyone going hungry. Almost every where you look, there are plenty of students, eating plenty of food.

"But not everybody can afford it," admitted Nolan Feeney as he finished lunch.

Upstairs, on the second floor of the campus center, two other students, Joe Spaulding and Erin Sass stood in a large closet half filled with groceries.

"We are students helping other students who have a need," Erin said with a smile.

Erin and Joe helped start the campus's first food pantry to feed hungry students and university workers. She's majoring in social work. He's studying to be a mechanical engineer. Admittedly, they make an odd couple.

"I'm social work. I'm about the people. And so is Joe 100 percent," she laughed. Joe admitted, "I'm about the numbers."

And the numbers are unappetizing.

Pantry organizers found nearly one in three IUPUI students qualified for free lunches when they were in high school. The rules change in college. Now on their own, an estimated 20 percent of students are what is called "food insecure". They're not sure where their next meal is coming from.

It's lot more serious than a college kid eking by on noodles and Skittles. "It's okay to struggle to make ends meet," Joe explained. "But the fact is the worst feeling in the world is going to class hungry and trying to concentrate while being hungry."

Reports from across the country estimate 50 other colleges and universities are now operating food pantries for their students.

Dejah Miles, an IUPUI freshman explained, "All your money goes to gas and books, and rent. Your grocery list goes slim. You need things like this."

She was the pantry's second customer. Bread, canned food, macaroni and cheese provided huge relief from a small bag of groceries. "I can now just focus on my studies and not worry about what I am going to eat today and how I'm going to pay for this. Just focus on school work, what you need to focus on," she said.

Students, alumni and the university worked for two years to open the small food pantry. It's open only two mornings and evenings a month. The shelves looked about half empty. Organizers are counting on donations increasing as the more students learn of the panty and depend on it.

To donate, help out or learn more visit the IUPUI Paws Food Pantry on Facebook.@