Thirty-six percent of American college students are food insecure, and a new grant from AmeriCorps is anticipated to help students going hungry on Utah’s universities.
“Starving students” are no joke to Sean Damitz, the director of Utah State University’s Center for Civic Engagement. With tuition rising an average of 2% across the state this year, students might sacrifice food. It’s hard to know how many students at USU are food insecure, but Damitz said that food insecure populations are growing.
“In the past four or five years we’ve seen exponential growth in terms of visitation to the SNAC pantry. So, it was 242 visits in 2014, in 2018 we had a total of 5,954 visits. So, that demonstrates the growing need at USU,” Damitz said.
USU is one of six Utah universities that has been awarded an AmeriCorps VISTA grant to improve its existing programs for helping food-insecure students.
“It’s for the AmeriCorps VISTA members. It covers their living allowance and education award. It has a yearlong commitment,” Damitz said.
VISTA members will be placed at USU, Salt Lake Community College, University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Weber State University and Westminster College. At USU, they’re anticipating improvements with the student food pantry and the urban farm.
“They’ll be working to develop the Urban Community Farm, to coordinate student initiatives like the Student Nutrition Access Center, the Food Recovery Network and the Campus Kitchen. They’ll give students the tools they need to feed themselves nutritiously on a low budget,” Damitz said.