Grocery giant Kroger is joining forces with the University of North Texas to help feed students experiencing food insecurity.
As part of its Zero Hunger Zero Waste commitment, The Kroger Co. presented UNT leaders with a $250,000 financial commitment Thursday morning.
A growing number of colleges and universities across the country are adding food pantries on campus to help students who do not know where their next meal will come from.
Nationally, 30% of college students are food insecure, which can impact student success and contribute to mental health problems, according to research from UNT anthropology professor Lisa Henry.
The UNT Dean of Students opened a food pantry on campus in 2015, which has served more than 10,000 visitors.
The new partnership will include a new name for the food bank: UNT Food Pantry Presented by Kroger.
The new funding will help keep shelves stocked and help hire two student workers.
Demand has grown amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the UNT Dean of Students.
“We have a lot of campus and community partners that have pizza parties for free lunches all the time,” said Dean of Student Maureen McGuiness. “In the middle of a pandemic, that doesn’t exist.”
She says that just last week, 146 students sought help from the pantry that normally serves 80 students.
Students in need of help include DACA recipients and international students who are facing cuts in funding or whose parents are not able to contribute as much money as before, said McGuiness.
“Our students many times use all their financial aid to pay for their books and their classes and their fees and then they just figure they’ll just make food work, they’ll find it somehow,” she said.
The food pantry accommodates students with dietary restrictions, including those that are vegan.
While some students facing food insecurity may experience feelings of shame, others are eager to come forward to voice their needs, said McGuiness.
Hoping to spare students any embarrassment, there is a backdoor entrance available at the pantry located in the Diamond Eagle Student Resource Center.
The food pantry is currently operating with curbside delivery amid the pandemic.
“The fact that a private company like Kroger is coming in to help is part, I think, of a national recognition that food insecurity is a national problem,” said UNT President Neal Smatresk. “We’ve built a way now, a partnership with Kroger to make sure there’s no stigma attached. They can get food and you know what? It takes fuel to reach the finish line and this will fuel their aspirations and their dreams.”
To learn more about the UNT Food Pantry Presented by Kroger, click here.