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Food Pantries On NC College Campuses: Need Is Greater Than Expected

Urban Ministries of Durham's food pantry, which serves community members in need, tends to face extra demand after storms or bad weather.
Reema Khrais

More universities in North Carolina are opening food pantries on campus to help hungry students and faculty. 

N.C. Central University started giving out food to its students earlier this week.  It's one of at least eight colleges and universities in the state that have opened food pantries in the last two years. 

Jason O'Briant is a dietetics professor at N.C. Central and helped start the school's pantry.  He says the need for food on college campuses is higher than expected, even for students who receive room and board.

'Even if they have a meal plan, we've heard stories of people letting their children eat off their meal plan.' - Jason O'Briant

"We have a lot of Pell Grant recipients on our campus, a lot of students utilizing student loans and working one and two jobs.  Even if they have a meal plan, we've heard stories of people letting their children eat off their meal plan or letting another family member eat off their meal plan, so they might not even be receiving what they do have," O'Briant says.

O'Briant says 15 students visited the pantry on its first day.  He says it's too early to tell whether it will be able to keep up with demand.

"We don't have a good projection, but we think that we're going to have a hard time keeping this stocked, which I guess is a good problem to have, but there's no data on the need here, so we also want to obtain some data to see the volume of food insecurity on our campus." 

The N.C. Central pantry relies on volunteers and donations, but plans to develop partnerships with local farmers' markets and the North Carolina Food Bank.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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