Kentucky college students turning to campus food pantries for help

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - For many us we don't give a second thought to sitting down to a hot meal, or shopping for groceries. For many in this state that is not the case. Hunger in Kentucky is a huge issue. In fact God's Pantry Food Bank says one in seven Kentuckians right now is receiving food assistance from either a pantry, shelter or kitchen. Recently, two food pantries opened in a place you might not expect, a college campus As WKYT's Amber Philpott found out the rising cost of getting an education is causing some college students to go hungry.

It's no secret that a place like God's Pantry Food Bank in Lexington serves a huge need.

"Here in Kentucky God's Pantry Food Bank is currently reaching out to 190,000 unique individuals annually in the 50 counties that we serve," said Marian Guinn, CEO at God's Pantry Food Bank.

The face of the hungry has been changing in recent years. Hunger is now found in all walks of life.

On college campuses like the University of Kentucky and in Richmond at Eastern Kentucky University. The rising cost of tuition has more and more students looking for help when it comes to their next meal.

"What happens is they make that large sum payment for tuition, room and board and there is not much money left over for the other essentials to be here," said Dr. Mike Reagle, Associate VP for Campus Life at EKU.

Dr. Reagle says studies show that one in six students on his campus have likely experienced hunger. In October the Colonel Cupboard opened to change that statistic.

"Often times we will get a referral about a student and we will then contact that student and just ask if this is something we can help them with," said Dr. Reagle.

The Colonel Cupboard is stocked 100% by donations from student groups and faculty. Students in need are given a food box with six to ten meals. Already the pantry has helped more than twenty students in just a few weeks.

"It's really rewarding knowing that you are helping someone with such a basic need and that basic need of food will help better themselves," said EKU Junior, Erin Leet.

At the University of Kentucky it's the Big Blue Pantry filling that need. This college pantry opened its doors in August to serve students.

" We are seeing on average 30 people a week, Thursdays are our busiest day," said Manning Kulis, a UK Junior who works at the Big Blue Pantry.

What UK and EKU are doing is part of a growing trend across the country on college campuses. A study from Michigan State found the number of food banks for students jumped from four in 2008 to 121 this year.

Food banks like the Big Blue Pantry are a result of faculty listening and realizing students need help.

" I know that I have worked with students who tell me that they are getting by on $19 a week for all their food. That's absolutely everything, going to the supermarket once and that's all they eat. They don't go out to eat," said Tammy Stephenson a UK Assistant Professor.

Here at the Big Blue Pantry students simply bring their student i.d. The students are given a list of how many items they can choose and there are no questions asked.

The student workers see it making a difference right before their eyes.

" It's definitely very humbling. And its also just a great reminder that you don't realize that the people you go to school with every day have these needs," said Lindsay Humbert a UK Senior who helps run the Big Blue Pantry.

EKU officials say their pantry is meant to provide short term assistance, while helping students find a long term solution. Both EKU and UK provide other tools for students such as money management workshops.

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