OREM -- Utah Valley University has become the fourth campus in the state to have an on-site food pantry for struggling students. The school is working in a partnership with the Community Action food bank in Utah County from which the pantry is supplied.
"We have so many students that use the food bank," said Mike Moon, program coordinator of the Volunteer and Service Learning Center at UVU. "This is making less traffic for Community Action."
Community Action's food bank currently services 2,000 families a month, according to Myla Dutton, executive director of Community Action. Some of those are UVU students.
Moon has been actively involved with food pantries since his college days at Southern Utah University, the first campus to develop a food pantry service nearly 10 years ago. Student food pantries are also located at Utah State University and Dixie State College. Other college pantries are under consideration.
The concept of the "starving student" is not new, but Moon suggests there are several students who could use the resources offered by the new pantry. There is not only food, but other helpful resources. Students can even work with nutrition specialists who will help them select foods to make sure they are eating healthy.
"We are here mostly to give students further resources," Moon said. "Classes are available in personal finance, bargain shopping and more."
The food in the UVU pantry comes directly from the Community Action food bank and is one of several distribution sites for the food bank. The pantry is divided into two sections, one for pre-packaged boxes for a week of food for families of two to four persons, and on the other side the food is shelved by category such as fruits, vegetables, meats and packaged products.
Moon said the pantry has three main goals: first, to offer food and security; second, healthy eating choices; and third, student retention. "Many students are just scraping by. The pantry and resources offered help those students stay in school. Moon said the pantry can even help students with their utility bills and other financial services.
Right now Moon said there it no demographic on how many students may use the pantry, but Pam Branin, the coordinator of the SUU Help Our People Eat Food Pantry, can put a perspective on how much the pantry may be used.
"We opened in the spring of 2002. We peaked out two years ago when we were helping 90 students a month, now it's about 50 a month. Our student body numbers about 8,000," Branin said. UVU's student body is about 31,000.
Like SUU, the new pantry at UVU will work on the honor system. Students will be offered a bag or two and will be able to pick what they need. Students will be asked for fill out a document that will be forwarded to Community Action. This will help with statistical information and to make sure students needs are being met. Students must also carry six credits to receive assistance.
"We're cooperating to better serve students and their young families," Dutton said. "Having a pantry at UVU makes it easily accessible to meet their needs. It's a great service."
Currently all food donations for the pantry should be made directly to Community Action. This Saturday is a large fall food drive for the food bank supported by area churches. Food may be left in bags or boxes on residents' front porch for pickup. If you are missed, food may be delivered to your local Walmart on Saturday morning only.
The UVU Pantry is located in LC-205 (Losee Center) at the Orem campus and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (801) 863-5335.