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Food insecurity challenges undergraduates at UNC, nationwide

Sophomore Erin Hoover (left), Senior Emily Milkes (center) and Senior Keagan Trahan work in the Carolina Cupboard in the basement of Avery Residence Hall. 

Sophomore Erin Hoover (left), Senior Emily Milkes (center) and Senior Keagan Trahan work in the Carolina Cupboard in the basement of Avery Residence Hall. 

Hunger impacts UNC’s campus for several reasons, according to Jashawnna Gladney, food pantry director for Carolina Cupboard.

“With Chapel Hill being a food desert and with UNC being located in the center of Chapel Hill, that could also contribute to why a lot of students experience food insecurity and/or hunger on our campus,” she said.

Gladney said Carolina Cupboard aims to alleviate food insecurity and hunger by being an immediate resource for students.

“I think the biggest thing that can be done is just continuing to educate the UNC community as a whole on the issue of food insecurity and how and why students at UNC face those issues,” she said.

Julie Cox, senior programs manager at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said student hunger is a huge issue.

“If you don’t have enough food to eat, it’s hard to focus on what’s going on in school,” she said.

Expensive meal plans might require students to get a job in order to have enough food, Cox said.

Cox said another solution is to make food more affordable on campus and to stop trying to make a profit off students.

“Just making sure there are different kinds of options for all students that attend various institutions,” she said.

Some schools broaden food pantry access to include other members of university communities, she said.

“I know a lot of colleges and universities have pantries, and not just for their students, but for a lot of their staff because of the low pay for adjuncts and teaching assistants, things like that,” Cox said.

Jeff Lowrance, spokesperson at Central Piedmont Community College, said students’ backgrounds contribute to the issue.

“The roots of it are societal in nature, of course — in that we have students who simply come from low- income backgrounds, impoverished backgrounds even where there may not be sufficient resources in the family to purchase food, there may not be a nearby supermarket that is easy for their families to purchase food,” he said.

Central Piedmont Community College is starting a food pantry on its central campus in March to help decrease hunger on campus, Lowrance said.

Lowrance said assumptions also contribute to the problem.

“Lots of times we tend to think that college students in general are provided for in some way,” he said. “If they’re going to school, someone must be supporting them and many times that’s not the case — both in community college and four year institutions.”

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