The college student living off junk food: it’s an image we’re all familiar with, and one that’s often a source of humor.
It’s not so funny, however, for students who can’t afford nourishing food. As part of its comprehensive effort to eradicate hunger, NC State has recently confronted student food insecurity head-on by opening “Feed The Pack,” an on-campus food pantry. Opened in mid-November in Harrelson Hall, the pantry offers food for students and employees who need it.
“With all of the expenses of succeeding here at NC State, food may be one of the first things that they cut out of the budget” to pay for academic needs and opportunities, said Sarah Wright, a tutor coordinator in the student support services office.
There are no firm numbers on how many NC State community members have difficulty affording food, Wright said. But growth in students with financial need brings with it an increase in students who lack access to healthy food.
“Economic diversity is critical on college campuses, so the fact that there’s a need for food pantries isn’t a negative,” Wright said. “What’s positive is when the campus says … we’re going to support you like we support tutoring, like we support studying abroad, like we support preparing for graduate school.”
Wright was one of 18 NC State delegates to “NC Campuses Against Hunger: A Call to Action to End Hunger In Our Lifetime,” a summit held at Elon University on Oct. 10-11. NC State was one of the sponsors of the event, where students, faculty and staff from 22 U.S. colleges and universities strategized about higher education’s role in fighting hunger on campus and across the globe.
The summit, where NC State had the largest delegation, built momentum around the issue, said Melissa Green, associate director of the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service (CSLEPS).
“People from all across this campus and every part of the community have a commitment to ending hunger,” she said.
NC State’s commitment to fighting hunger doesn’t stop at the edge of campus. The university has a longstanding relationship with Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based hunger relief agency started in 1998. At annual meal-packing events for the organization, NC State students and employees have packaged more than 2 million meals that have gone around the world.
Combining idealism and industriousness, sophomore Ryan O’Donnell is emblematic of NC State’s work on hunger prevention. As a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, he helped lead a food drive that set a Guiness world record for food collected in a 24-hour event at a single location.
O’Donnell won the 2012 President William Jefferson Clinton Hunger Leadership Award, given annually to a college student who has demonstrated leadership in fighting hunger and poverty.
He is the second NC State student to win the award in its four-year history.
Universities don’t have to choose between addressing hunger locally and globally, according to O’Donnell.
“We’re going to tackle both,” said O’Donnell, who also participated in the summit at Elon. “Universities can play a role in both.”
Can and do. Hunger-fighting is a perfect fit for NC State’s land-grant mission, according to Mike Giancola, associate vice provost for student leadership and engagement.
“It’s at the intersection of our cutting-edge research, our student service, our education and our outreach,” he said.