Books, tuition, housing, utilities – these all add up for college students, and recent studies show that about a third of students find themselves choosing between necessities. Often, this means making food a low priority, resulting in food insecurity. When someone suffers from food insecurity, it means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or when they might be able to buy more groceries on a meager budget that is already stretched thin.
Food insecurity has a domino effect of negative outcomes, including lower graduation rates. Many people may not realize that college students are at risk for food insecurity, but studies indicate otherwise – in fact, studies show that up to nine percent of students who fill out financial aid forms state they are homeless. These needs in our community are real, and SIS Director Diane Kelly decided to start an initiative to do something to help address food insecurity among our own students.
“At SIS, we know many of our students face hardships that require them to make difficult financial decisions every day. Going without food should not be one of them,” Kelly said. “Reports and stories about food insecurity on college campuses, and even homelessness, really got us thinking about what our students might be experiencing, and how we might assist them.”
One major way college campuses have been addressing food insecurity among students is by creating food pantries. The University of Tennessee Knoxville has Smokey’s Pantry, a food pantry open to students, faculty and staff. Last semester, the College of Communication and Information had two food drives to collect food for Smokey’s Pantry, and that prompted Kelly to think about how to help SIS students who might be experiencing food insecurity.
“Many of our SIS students are not local, and that made us think about how we could bring the food pantry to them. We came up with the idea of the SIS Food Box,” Kelly said. “We can’t provide gourmet meals like a food delivery service does, but we can mail boxes of nonperishable food items to students who need assistance.”
Students who are experiencing food insecurity can request a box by filling out this form. Local students who need assistance can request a box for pick-up or shipping.
Alumni and other community members who would like to donate to SIS Food Box can go here and select SIS Enrichment Fund. Be sure to include “Food Box” in the comments field.