Student food pantry provides a safety net as COVID-19 pandemic continues

By Diane Smith

Food Insecurity Web

Food insecurity is an ongoing concern for many students and one that’s being addressed by the The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.

“Our students are here to do hard things, and hard things become increasingly more difficult when basic needs aren’t being met,” said Dr. Emily Mire, Director of Care and Civility. “We feel like we are called as a campus to serve others first, and a big part of that is fiercely taking care of our own.”

To meet that need, HSC created the Student Food Pantry in July 2016. It soon expanded to two sites, one in the Student Services Center and another on the fourth floor of Lewis Library.

The library site is no longer accessible because the library has been closed temporarily as a result of COVID-19 safety precautions. Dr. Mire said her team has a “Plan B” in place in case the pandemic forces the campus to close altogether.

“The students were emailed a flier with community resources, and this is also printed in the Food Pantry as well,” she said. “We have several community resources that are committed to combating food insecurity within Tarrant County.”

Dr. Mire said her team is ready to communicate quickly as the crisis unfolds.

A recent campus survey of HSC students indicated that 26% of respondents said they sometimes couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals, and 25% worried whether their food would run out before they had money to buy more.

Meanwhile, 18% of respondents ate less than they felt they should, cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for more food.

The idea for the pantry came as the campus Care Team identified basic needs among students. It also grew out of an incident in which several students lost the most of their belongings in an apartment fire, Dr. Mire said.

“We watched our campus really step up to care for our students and saw the potential for us to turn this into a sustainable source of support,” she said.

In January, 224 pounds of food was provided to students through the Food Pantry, said Alex Fernandez, Student Services Associate.

“We don’t ask any questions,” he said, adding that popular items include canned soups, canned meat, breakfast foods and pasta.

Fernandez said graduate students are juggling a lot as the community grapples with the effects of coronavirus. Many have part-time jobs that could be impacted or have only limited funds.

“We want to be able to provide them with a safety net,” Fernandez said.

Until further notice, the Student Services Center Food Pantry is available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. An Amazon Donation Wish List for the pantry has also been created to help while many are practicing social distancing. All orders are shipped directly to the HSC campus. Please direct all questions to OCC@unthsc.edu.

Please call to check on hours of operation for these off-campus resources:

  • Tarrant Area Food Bank: 817-857-7100, 2600 Cullen St., Fort Worth.
  • Tarrant County Resource Connection, 817-531-7600, 1100 Circle Dr., Fort Worth.
  • Community Food Bank, 817-924-3333, 3000 Galvez, Ave., Fort Worth.

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