Food pantries on university and college campuses in North Carolina are experiencing high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though there are fewer students around. Campus food pantries have historically served students in need, and that need has only increased since mid-March.
When the pandemic hit, some food pantries — including ones at UNC-Chapel Hill and Durham Tech — provided students with gift cards. Some pantries also started offering new items, like hygiene products and frozen food.
Hannah McMillan of Duke's pantry said demand has remained high since the spring.
"There are fewer people on most campuses. And so the fact that we're seeing an equivalent demand to what we were used to seeing before the pandemic, means probably there's a higher percentage of students using pantries,” said McMillan.
The pantry at NC State University has received over 5,000 visits so far this year, compared to under 4,000 for all of last year.
At Durham Tech and NC A&T State University, pantry leaders are helping students apply for food benefits. Some pantries, including those at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke, are offering contact-free delivery directly to students' homes. Students can also go online and schedule times to pick up items in person.
Erin Riney of Durham Tech says that the school's food pantry is also experiencing high demand during the pandemic.
"We aren't seeing necessarily a huge increase in the number of students who have a need, but what we are seeing are the students that we do have, that their need has increased significantly."