UNT Professor Continues Study of Food Insecurity on Campus – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
The pandemic became a problem that has been going on on college campuses for years – students battling hunger.
If they are fighting for food, they can also fight academically.
“Ultimately, that’s what the students are here for, they want to graduate, they want to graduate. So they’re willing to sacrifice food to graduate. That’s the population that really matters,” Lisa Henry said , Ph .D, professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Texas at Denton.
She began researching food insecurity on campus in 2014, around the time the university was opening an on-campus pantry. Henry and her team spoke to the students to learn the reasons for food insecurity, how it affected them, and what resources would help.
“There’s a tremendous amount of shame and stigma among college students. In fact, it is one of the main subjects of my research that came out without asking a question about the same or stigma,” she said.
“Yes, there are a lot of students who are making it right now, but they’re not the students who are just making it. These are the students who have a hard time socializing because they don’t even have the money to leave out and have a drink or a meal with their friends. They find it difficult to socialize, which makes them feel more isolated and lonely. And there is a whole different layer of mental health that comes with it. Feelings of isolation, fear “Depression, emphasize this is really prevalent among food-insecure college students.”
However, the students felt that the decision to attend college led to their situation and were reluctant to seek resources offered by the state and federal government.
“They are far more likely to accept food and supplies from the university than from pantries and soup kitchens that exist outside the community,” Henry said.
The UNT Food Pantry first opened in 2015 and has continued to guide students through the pandemic, shifting operations to contactless, roadside only and pickup only. And it’s been a busy academic year.
“We looked after nearly 900 students in our pantry,” said Delaney Farris-Dyer, graduate assistant in the dean’s office.
Farris-Dyer helps monitor the pantry, makes sure the students fill out the correct form, then fills the bags and brings them to the students.
“We have a five-day meal bag that has heartier products in it. We focus on proteins and make sure they can make meals. Then we have two additional bags that are short term and one snack bag,” she explained.
A community garden means that there are fresh vegetables. And a fridge and freezer donated seven months ago brought more choices.
“Lately we’ve been able to shed frozen proteins like chicken and pork, eggs and butter,” she said.
We are very excited to introduce you to our newest pantry. Thanks to the generous donation from alumnus Bruzzy Westheimer, we now have a fridge and freezer! You can now request cold products like eggs, fruit and yogurt! In our timeline you will find the contactless pick-up link pic.twitter.com/f36Smee8kL
– UNT Pantry (@UNTPantry) July 29, 2020
In the brief interactions, Farris-Dyer hopes to show compassion and remove a student’s stigma.
“If you’re sick on campus, go to the student health and wellness center. If you’re hungry on campus, come to the pantry. That’s why we’re here,” she said.
“The more the campus can talk about food insecurity among students and resources, the less stigma students will feel,” said Henry.
Henry released her first research in 2019 in hopes of helping administrators understand the students’ experiences. She continues to research the topic and is now working with her students to find out how the pandemic has changed the student experience with hunger.
“I think this is a really important conversation. People live this in secret, it’s not something they share with many people. What we don’t capture are the people who haven’t returned to school at all, “Henry said in a press release.