Reeve Memorial Union will be opening a food pantry to help combat food insecurity among UW Oshkosh students, prompted by research done by McNair scholar Joy Evans and her mentor Juliana Kahrs, UWO assistant director of health promotion.
Evans said the food pantry should be opening in late November.
Kahrs said Evans focused her research on health disparities among minority college students and examined how health can factor into student success.
“She recognized that access to healthy foods was an issue for many students and also linked to these other issues, so we decided to focus on food insecurity,” Kahrs said.
Evans said students living on campus are required to have a meal plan, but even the cheapest option costs about $1,000 a semester.
“If you divided it up by month, you’re spending about $300,” Evans said. “Then on top of that, you have to spend more money just to be able to eat again in a day. Think about how much you could get from the grocery store with $300.”
McNair program director Cordelia Bowlus said through Evans’ research, she was able to identify food insecurity and related health issues as a serious concern on campus.
“Her findings, although they were based on a relatively small sample size, corroborated the findings of numerous similar studies conducted on campuses across the country,” Bowlus said. “The beauty of Joy’s work is that it identifies that this is a particularly serious problem for students of color living in the residence halls so that we as campus community can begin finding solutions.”
Kahrs said food insecurity can have negative effects on many aspects of a person’s life.
“Food insecurity can impact students’ ability to focus and succeed in school and influence many other health factors that contribute to acute and chronic preventable diseases,” Kahrs said. “In addition, current research indicates a link between experiences of food insecurity and the incidence and severity of depression and anxiety among many populations, including college students.”
Based on the research Evans collected on students of color, she discovered over half of them were food insecure and experienced risk factors.
“Inadequate sleep, low physical activity, unhealthy weight or BMI and mental illnesses are all risk factors,” Evans said. “The majority of people who are food insecure experience three to five of these things.”
While having an on-campus food pantry won’t alleviate all of the problems students experience with food insecurity, Bowlus said it will help with immediate needs.
“Having the pantry in Reeve, which is frequented by virtually all students, is critical if we are to reach students in need as well as raise awareness among the campus community as a whole that students are not immune to food insecurity,” Bowlus said.