Feed the Pack, a student-run food pantry located in the Quad Commons, raises awareness and addresses the issue of food insecurity on NC State’s campus. With the potential threat of another government shutdown on Feb. 15, Feed the Pack has provided extra support for food-insecure students, faculty and staff.
Thu Le, a fourth-year studying industrial and systems engineering and current executive director of Feed the Pack, said that the mission of Feed the Pack is to meet the basic food needs of all students, faculty, and staff. She said that a big part of the organization is reducing the stigma surrounding food insecurity.
“Feed the Pack is a food pantry on NC State’s campus,” Le said. “We provide non-perishable food items and hygiene products to students, staff and faculty on campus, completely free of charge. There are no requirements; you don’t have to prove anything to us. You just come in, show us your Student ID and you’re able to use the pantry.”
Feed the Pack has 5,400 visits since opening in 2012 and over 2,000 visits in 2018 alone, Le said.
“Dr. Mary Haskett in the psychology department did a research study in the fall of 2017,” Le said. “She surveyed over 1,000 students and found that 14 percent of students were facing low or very low food security over the past 30 days. That’s about 4,750 students, which is almost the size of the class of 2022.”
Mike Giancola, assistant vice provost and student ombuds, said that food insecurity is a silent issue on college campuses, which can make it hard to address.
“It is an issue that maybe some people don’t think exists on campus,” Giancola said. “The perception is that students are at a university and therefore have access to all the resources they need, including their basic needs being met.”
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, were affected by the government shutdown in January, making it harder for recipients to make ends meet, Le said. Giancola said that the pantry saw increased demand during the shutdown.
“We have seen increased usage of the pantry during that period,” Giancola said. “The students have expanded the hours of the food pantry to Monday through Friday, from 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., to try to be responsive to some of the increased need.”
Giancola said students currently receiving SNAP benefits should fill out a form in order to receive more assistance in the form of Meal Share meals.
“In the event that the government shutdown continues, we will work with trying to provide them Meal Share meals,” Giancola said. “These are meals that students donate, so it is important that at the end of the semester, if they have leftover guest meals, to donate those.”
In addition to expanding hours, Le said that Feed the Pack is urging people to donate due to the increased usage of the pantry.
“It is natural that a student might stress about their chemistry or engineering class,” Giancola said. “What we want to try to avoid is students having to stress over their basic needs, food and housing.”