PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A recent study reported that one in five students at four-year colleges is dealing with food insecurity — and now local institutions are stepping up to help students in need.
West Chester University is located in one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest counties, yet it has a much-needed place for the many students who are struggling. The university’s Dub-C Resource Center offers students free soap, shampoo and other free personal items, school supplies, clothing — and lots of food.
“We’ve got a lot of soups, albacore tuna in water. Our students really like that,” said Jodi Roth-Saks, who runs WCU’s Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs.
Roth-Saks says they opened the center in October. Today it consistently provides food for nearly two dozen students thanks to donations. And next year they will expand to include produce.
A study released in October surveyed 3,700 students in 12 states. It found that 20% of students at four-year institutions and 25% at two-year colleges lacked reliable access to affordable food.
“I think it’s something that we were not aware of, ” said Rich Przywara, Director of Student Housing. “The number of students who self-identify as missing a meal was another surprise to us all.”
Przywara says two years ago, the school began offering free summer housing to students who are homeless. And the pantry was a natural expansion.
“We are willing to do whatever it takes,” he said. “If it’s housing, if it’s food, we want these students to get a diploma because then they are set for life.”
Others schools with pantries include Cabrini University and Rutgers New Brunswich.