ASU’s University Senate unanimously passed a resolution on March 29 with the intention of addressing and solving food insecurity among the ASU community.
The goal of the “Resolution Supporting Promoting Food Security for Students,” according to University Senate President Simin Levinson, is to amplify the issue of food insecurity to solicit support from a broader segment of the University.
The resolution asks for a total of nine initiatives, including raising awareness of food insecurity as a significant concern affecting ASU students’ learning and including a statement on course syllabi regarding available basic needs resources along with the link to the ASU Student Advocacy and Assistance website.
“Arizona State University students are struggling with food insecurity and may be choosing between eating and paying for tuition/books/rent/other basic needs and is a student retention concern,” the motion reads.
It also supports the establishment of a basic needs coalition, which would include "leadership from across the university, students and community leaders to identify key resources within the university and surrounding community for each campus and expand upon the current basic needs website."
“This resolution will be forwarded to University administration to let them know that the University Senate supports the promotion of food security at ASU,” Levinson said.
The resolution also supports the hire of a full-time staff member to support and oversee food pantry operations, employ graduate and undergraduate student workers and create a team of student volunteer workers from organizations such as Pitchfork Pantry and AmeriCorps.
Maureen McCoy, the senator responsible for drafting the resolution, is also the faculty advisor for Pitchfork Pantry, ASU’s student-run food pantry that serves all ASU students with the goal of fighting food insecurity and promoting well-being, sustainability and food recovery. Pitchfork Pantry is currently run by volunteer students and McCoy.
McCoy said that currently, at the tutoring centers on each campus, the pantry is only able to provide pre-packaged bags of food.
“Everyone deserves the chance to choose the food they eat,” she said. “A well-nourished student is a student that can stay in school and continue to become the amazing person they can be, and then go out and help their own community.”
McCoy hopes the University can support a staff worker to run day-to-day pantry operations, as she currently does it for all four campuses, in addition to her teaching and administrative responsibilities. She says overseeing the pantry is 10% of her current position, compared to 70% teaching and 20% administrative.
“As the pantry grows, it’s challenging as a student-run club with a faculty advisor to manage everything,” she said. “If the resolution were to come to fruition, we hope that the pantry services can expand and reach more students that are struggling.
"Instead of sending a student to their local closest food bank when transportation is an issue for many students, we want students to know that we are right on campus for them and can help them through challenging times."
Pitchfork Pantry President Lindsay Pacheco, a junior majoring in medical studies, said the pantry has seen a large increase in the number of off-campus students and international students recently.
“There are less students overall on the ASU campuses, but we have seen more students than we have seen any other semester,” she said. “We think this is due to our growth, thanks to our partnerships with the ASU tutoring centers and Matthew's Crossing Food Bank, but also due to other difficulties as a result of the pandemic.”
Pitchfork Pantry wants to continue being a bridge and a place for immediate support for students who are struggling with food insecurity, Pacheco said.
“We understand that we are a short-term emergency resource, but we see our presence as valuable and necessary for being there for students today and tomorrow, not just to connect them with resources that they may not receive until a few months from now,” Pacheco said.
University Senate and Pitchfork Pantry both hope to support students by connecting them to other support systems, as well as teaching cooking skills and nutrition education to students.
Pacheco said one of the biggest recent developments in food aid for students was when the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federal program meant to provide supplemental money each month for low and no-income people to purchase food, waived its work requirement for students.
"This is a temporary change but we are sharing it with students as much as we can so they can take advantage of it while it is available,” she said.
Other resources available include additional meal swipes or grocery store gift cards from the dean of students on students' respective campuses and food banks around each of the ASU campuses, Pacheco said.
She sees this resolution as a call to action, citing that one of ASU’s sustainability goals was to “eliminate food insecurity among ASU community members by fiscal year 2020.”
“We are well past 2020 and, unfortunately, the food insecurity issue at ASU has not diminished,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said Pitchfork Pantry’s main focus is ASU students and reassured any hesitant students that this resource is specifically for them, and they are not taking away the opportunity from anyone else.
Now that the resolution has passed, it will go into effect immediately, Levinson said. As a result, students can expect to see an increase in the promotion and distribution of resources to combat food insecurity in the coming months.
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