NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - College students living on ramen noodles and cheese sandwiches is often passed off as a right of passage.
However, college administrators are discovering food insecurities is a serious issue among university students. Stephen F. Austin State University is joining the ranks of other campuses in establishing a student food bank. Community help is always needed.
"And we come over, we want to make sure everybody has a variety of vegetables and meats and fruits," said JoJwan McLeod, a volunteer, said as he was helping a shopper.
Once a week, SFA students in need of food can shop at Food For Thought. No questions are asked, but the typical customer is food insecure.
"Food insecurity just means that they don't know necessarily where their next meal is coming from," said Dr. Miranda Sue Terry, the faculty advisor for Hunger Jacks.
A hungry college student is different from someone in typical poverty. Rising tuition, holding down multiple jobs, losing a job, medical expenses, and unexpected expenses can hurt tight budgets. Then there is the rising number of non-typical students, such as a single parent with several children, who need help.
"Ok, these are our specialty items and you can pick four," said Amber Stafford, a volunteer.
"The truth is it's more severe than many of us remember from our time in college or from stories we know from others," said Dr. Adam Peck, SFA's Dean of Students. "Students going longer periods of time."
Community food banks won't serve college students, claiming they have access to a meal plan. Some students resort to going behind grocery stores on the days they know management sets unwanted foods outside the dumpsters for those in need. SFA Student Government gave Hunger Jacks $500 in seed money to launch Food For Thought.
"Taking the away the hunger portion of their focus really enables them to do the best," said Marquice Hobbs, SFA's SGA president.
A research survey is underway in order to estimate how many food insecure students there are at SFA. Researchers say 13 to 33 percent of student populations on college campuses are searching for their next meal.
A Pack the Pantry Food and Funds Drive will take place Monday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. during the SFA Basketball game. Donors will receive a chance to win gift cards to local businesses.
Hunger Jacks will continue collecting food for all the community food banks, but this drive is devoted to Food For Thought.