It has been nearly a year since the pandemic dramatically changed the lives of Northwestern State University students.
NSU’s Food Pantry has been on the front line of keeping students healthy during this crisis, especially when they don’t have enough money to buy food.
According to recent article in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, many college students are not getting enough to eat every day. Even before the pandemic estimates were as high as one in three college students dealing with food insecurity.
Food insecurity, defined as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle,” has only increased among college students since the pandemic, according to the article.
NSU students are also finding it harder to find work because the pandemic has forced many local bars and restaurants in Natchitoches to cut back their hours for safety reasons, making it harder for students to have enough money to buy food.
According to the journal article, “Jobs have been cut in unprecedented numbers, and 18-24 year-olds have experienced some of the highest rates of unemployment.”
Most college students cannot apply for federal food stamp assistance, making the food pantry an increasingly valuable student resource for those needing help.
“The food pantry offers the same quality food items as local grocery stores and is free to students,” Sheridan Duet, food pantry student coordinator, said.
The food pantry’s website noted that it began five years ago as a class project by a group of social work students who recognized that some of their friends were struggling. Since then, it has expanded its offering to include costly non-food items.
It also stocks personal hygiene items, toiletries and cleaning supplies, Duet said, adding that one problem is that many students don’t know about the food pantry or are too embarrassed to come in.
“One of our goals currently is addressing the negative stigma surrounding the food pantry but we are creating a social media presence, hosting events and just making our students aware that we are here,” Duet said.
“We are attending N-Side View day to target incoming freshman so they are informed about the food pantry,” Duet said.
The pandemic has also changed the way the food pantry does business. In pre-pandemic days, students could simply walk in to get what they needed, but now precautions are taken to make sure everyone is safe.
“Instead of students grabbing their items, we are the ones that walk around putting their things in a basket to limit the number of hands touching things,” Ashlynn Stewart, a student volunteer, said.
Stewart also noted only four students are allowed into the food pantry at one time and encouraged any student to stop by to see what the food pantry has to offer.
The food pantry is located on the south side of Trisler Power Plant on NSU’s Central Ave. and is open to all students.
Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 8 a.m.to noon on Friday.
Donations are welcome. To obtain a list of needed items, donors should contact Reatha Cox, director of student affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org .