Food pantry to open at University of Idaho

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The University of Idaho plans to open a food pantry next month amid concerns about low-income student nutrition.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports that the pantry on the first floor of the Student Union building is tentatively set to open Jan. 15 and has more than 650 pounds of food donations from university food drives.

"The concerns about poverty in the city and county are largely invisible," Dean of Students Bruce Pitman said. "We have many examples of students coming forward and needing additional financial assistance for a wide range of issues."

Paying rent and buying food are some of the most common problems students face because they underestimate the cost of going to school, he said.

"This is a hugely important and necessary service that every college and university should be providing," said Bruce Mann, coordinator for the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action.

Maggie Hand, an outreach and recruitment student coordinator at the Center for Volunteerism, said rising tuition costs and an increase in first generation students trying to understand the financial challenges of paying for college increased the need for the food pantry.

"We started hearing stories about kids missing class in order to get food for their families or themselves," Hand said.

The UI Parents Association, which pays for programs to improve the quality of life for students, spent about $2,000 to get the pantry started.

Many of the foods donated will be beans, potatoes and dried peas and lentils. The university's dietitian, Marissa Lucas, will offer recipes and advice for students using the pantry. She also has a monthly cooking class at the Student Recreation Center on cooking meals on a tight budget.

"While fast food and the dollar menu can be really tempting, it can be just as affordable to eat healthy foods and we're trying to change that way of thinking," she said. "Students are struggling to make ends meet and fill their refrigerator. It's definitely something I see and I'm concerned about, so I'm grateful and excited for this food pantry."

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Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News