With rising college fees, tuition increases and more low-income students than ever before, the struggle with hunger on college campuses continues to grow across the nation. As one of the first student-serving food pantries in the United States, Southern Utah University’s HOPE pantry has been addressing this problem since 2002. Because of its success, many other universities have looked to SUU’s food pantry as a model for their own.
The HOPE Pantry, signifying Helping Our People Eat, has been on SUU’s campus for more than 13 years. It is a food resource run on a students-helping-students model. A student leader is in charge of keeping it clean and organized and plans activities throughout the year to raise awareness and encourage others to donate what they can.
“We have a no-questions-asked environment,” said Pam Branin, associate director of the SUU Community Engagement Center. “Students in need come in, we show them where the pantry is, and they take what they need.”
The HOPE pantry is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in SUU’s Community Engagement Center. In a typical month the pantry is used 60 to 90 times and hundreds of students benefit from its services.
“Advisors and faculty are kept informed so if they sense a struggling student, they can offer this resource as help,” said Branin.
The project was created when the SUU Student Association (SUUSA) went to Branin asking for ideas on how to use extra money in its budget. Student leaders wanted to do something more meaningful than simply another activity.
Every month the University hosts a bread and soup night to collect non-perishable foods for the pantry. Some undergraduates donate money which helps provide fresh produce.
Even the community has gotten involved in the project. Local grocery stores, Smith’s and Lin’s Fresh Market, participate by donating bread every Sunday. Every week hundreds of students benefit from the free bread served in the Sharwan Smith Student Center on campus. Community members also donate by providing extra produce from their gardens in the fall.
“A student once told me ‘I can make a bag of potatoes last me a month,’” said Branin. “Food is a critical resource for student success but sometimes they have to choose between buying a textbook or buying groceries for the week. The HOPE Pantry makes a difference in their lives.”To know more about the HOPE Pantry or learn how you can donate, visit its website or visit the Community Engagement Center offices across from the South Hall building on 200 South (Thunderbird Way).