Students, faculty and staff hope food pantry project will continue to expand

Elenoa Tupouniua, a senior intern at the Office of Women’s Development (OWD), cannot afford the dining plans at APU. She sometimes struggles to eat sufficient amounts of food throughout the day.

Tupouniua was grateful for her supervisor at work who provided her with lunch out of pocket.

“It meant a lot to me since I am someone without a meal plan,” Tupouniua said. “I figured, wouldn’t it be great if other students who walked in could receive snacks or food essentials?”

Aware of how severe the side effects of food insecurity can be, Tupouniua took action and decided to develop a food pantry on campus. The pantry, which is located in the OWD, aims to help provide financially unstable students with food as well as to eliminate the sense of shame that may arise from experiencing food insecurity.

Since the pantry opened in December 2018, it has collected more than 100 individual items. Tupouniua hopes that what is now a stack of donated goods will develop into a monthly mobile food pantry by this fall.

With the assistance of several offices and departments throughout APU, including the OWD, the Office of Student Life and the Department of Social Work, the discussion of food insecurity has grown on campus.

“It is important to provide these students with available resources and to erase the stigma surrounding food insecurity on college campuses,” said Lauren Carrillo, a Club Social Work board member.

Throughout the last two semesters, the Office of Student Life sent out food insecurity surveys throughout campus which sought student feedback on the issue.

According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, an estimated one in eight Americans were food insecure in 2017. This equates to about 40 million people. More than 12 million of these individuals are children.

“Households that are food insecure have difficulty consistently obtaining adequate food because of limited economic resources for food. Households that are food insecure also face other challenges — in particular, with respect to health,” said Julie Negron, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at APU.

Negron noted one of the biggest food insecurity challenges college students face is the inability to eat three meals a day, due to either economic hardship or insufficient time management. This, she said, puts students at increased risk for chronic heart disease, low blood pressure and poor psychological and cognitive functioning.

Tupouniua compares this phenomenon to a foundationless Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where the essentials such as shelter, water and food are missing.

“If we are not addressing those things, how do we expect students to cope mentally and emotionally,” Tupouniua asked. “How do we expect them to do well in school?”

Although Carillo sees this project developing over the next few years, she said the success of the food pantry depends on raising awareness and the amount of people getting involved.