Boise State is working to combat food insecurity on campus and the stigma surrounding it. With 500 visitors from the beginning of 2019 through Oct. 2, the food pantry located in the Dean of Students office and a second smaller location in the Albertsons Library are working to help students.
Emily Hester, a junior business administration and sociology double major, has worked in the Dean of Students office since early 2019. Hester maintains the day-to-day tasks of the pantry, while restocking and organizing items.
“Once I found out they had a food insecurity on campus, I was like, ‘This is really cool, this is something I’m used to, familiar with,’ and I was super passionate about it,” Hester said. “And so I asked if I could take a larger role in the operations side of the food pantry and how we could make it to better serve our students.”
According to Anna Moreshead, the assistant dean of students, 36% of students reported food insecurity out of 6,000 students that the survey was administered to. From Aug. 26 to Oct. 2, there were 221 visits, which is an increase from the 60 visits the previous year in the same time frame.
“So the fact that only 221 visits happened tells me there’s students that one, either don’t identify themselves as food insecure so they’re not seeing that [food pantry]as a resource that they would access,” Moreshead said. “Or two, the stigma and they don’t want to.”
The hope of the food insecurity committee is to lessen the stigma by having more people involved and aware of the resources available to them. Hannah Garcia is a sophomore kinesiology major who is a part of the food insecurity committee, as well as Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) Assembly.
The food pantry does not currently have a set volunteer schedule, but Garcia and the food insecurity committee are working to make it more available to people that want to volunteer.
“We’d love to set up some kind of infrastructure where people can come volunteer,” Garcia said. “There’s been a lot more talk about it now and I think especially any organization where you need service hours, we’d love the help. And it’s on campus, you’re helping your fellow Bronco.”
The pantry has recently begun receiving donations of hygiene and personal care products. By expanding their list of items that people can donate, they are hoping for more donations.
“Food and hygiene products are necessities,” Garcia said. “And if they can’t afford one necessity, what makes you think they can afford the other? If they can’t afford canned goods, how can they afford shampoo or conditioner?”
Students do not have to give their name or student ID number to access the pantry and are allowed to leave requests of items that would be helpful to have. One of the main items asked for is fresh produce.
Discussions with the Idaho Foodbank have begun to possibly bring a mobile food truck to campus with free fresh produce to those who need it, according to ASBSU President Kaleb Smith. Currently, the pantry is unable to provide fresh produce because there is no refrigerator and they do not possess the proper licensing.
Kim Empey is the agency relations specialist for The Idaho Foodbank and spoke with committees in late July at the Basic Student Needs Summit about food insecurity on campus.
“We have been talking about ways that we can partner and (have been) meeting with ASBSU, talking about ways that we could partner with the physical pantry or also maybe bring a mobile (truck),” Empey said. “But it’s all in the early stages but we’re talking about it.”
By having all the fresh produce donated through the Idaho Foodbank and their mobile truck, there would be fewer obstacles for the committee.
“We don’t have to be licensed and all the produce goes back with them so we don’t have to keep any of it and figure out how we would get rid of it,” Hester said. “So it just seemed like a really healthy partnership. And then we would also be able to get different clubs and community groups on campus involved.”
A host from the university would be needed every time the mobile food pantry came to campus and would allow organizations to get involved and spread awareness. By having more people involved, the stigma of being food insecure could be reduced, according to Hester.
The partnership with the Idaho Foodbank would give the Boise State food pantry a consistent donor if there ever was a time when donations are scarce.
“If everything’s just going to keep increasing [in price], how can we provide those basic needs for students that aren’t able to get them?” Hester said. “So I think that’s why it’s incredibly important for us to have a food pantry and be able to actually stock it and make it a consistent piece of student’s lives.”