For some students attending college, the struggle with money is often a decision between paying the rent and eating dinner.
The tuition rates for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year increased by 2.75%, as approved by the NU Board of Regents on June 28, 2019. This makes tuition $21,286 for in-state students and $37,726 for out-of-state students, according to the Undergraduate Office of Admissions’ website.
With the tuition rates and other costs of living increasing, skipping meals isn’t just a college stereotype, but a reality for several University of Nebraska-Lincoln students.
A survey conducted in 2016 found that nearly one in three UNL students are food insecure. Katie Petersen, graduate assistant of the Husker Pantry, said that this data was the reason for establishing the food pantry, which officially opened its doors on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the pantry sees up to 100 students per week with nearly 3,300 visits, according to 1011 News.
“Food insecurity means that you’ve either skipped a meal because you can’t afford to pay for a meal,” Petersen said. “You can’t afford to buy healthy foods or you choose to pay your bills instead of going to the grocery store.”
A student who may worry about not having enough money for food can visit the Husker Pantry to receive food and hygiene items for free by showing their NCard.
Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week is an annual program that takes place from Monday, Nov. 18 to Sunday, Nov. 24 to bring attention to “problems of hunger and homelessness” nationwide.
Throughout the week, the Husker Pantry is hosting a number of events to help bring more awareness for food insecurity throughout the university. Along with Petersen, the events were planned in collaboration with the student advisory board of the pantry. These student volunteers helped coordinate and run the events throughout the week.
On Friday, Nov. 21 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., there will be a cooking demonstration hosted by Campus Rec Wellness & Nutrition at The Kitchen Table in the University Health Center. Participants can “learn how to make a low cost, high-quality meal” using the food that can be found in the pantry by watching and taste testing the demonstration.
“We’re working with the Campus Rec, and they’re taking items from the food pantry and making something with it,” Petersen said. “You get an opportunity to try it, so you get free food, which is always fun.”
Friday will also have a coat giveaway from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University Health Center. Big Red Resilience and Well-being is hosting the drive for students in need of a winter coat. Additional dates include Nov. 22, Nov. 25, Nov. 26, Nov. 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other events during the week include a fundraiser at the 13th and Q street Chipotle on Saturday, Nov. 23 and a Husker Turkey Trot 5K run on Sunday, Nov. 24. To participate in the events, students can just show up, Petersen said. For events like the Chipotle fundraiser, students should look to their social media accounts or the Husker Pantry website to get download the flier.
The donation drive is a driving factor of the week. The bins are counted throughout the week.
“We will be counting the bins and announcing who’s in the lead right now to kind of help promote, you know, oh, we should donate more so we can be the winner,” Petersen said.
Donations can be dropped off in the donation bins which are at a number of city and east campus locations. These drop off spots can be found on the Husker Pantry website. The bin with the most donations will be the winner of the competition, with the winning donation location announced on Friday, Nov. 22.
The item that is in most demand this month, according to the Husker Pantry website, is ramen noodles and soup. For those wanting to donate, the pantry will also accept unopened condiments, canned foods, granola bars, drinks, canned meats among other items listed on their website. They also encourage donations of hygiene products, cleaning supplies, items to care for babies and eating utensils.
While the events throughout the week will bring awareness to the food pantry, Petersen’s year-long work with the pantry provides her with a glimpse into a decision that many students face.
“I didn’t realize how much of a need it was because I’ve been very privileged to not have to worry about food and where my food is coming from,” Petersen said. “To see how much of an impact we have on some students has been amazing.”