Bowie State University students can now shop for free food and even chill out on a couch and watch TV in a new food pantry the school opened with a $10,000 Food Lion grant.
The goal of the food bank, which opened this week, is to eliminate the stigma of getting free food and to meet the nutritional need of students. In a 2019 survey conducted by the Hope Center for College Community and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia, roughly 45 percent of a polled 86,000 college students nationwide said they experience food insecurity.
The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study also released data that found that 39 percent of undergraduates fell at or below the federal poverty line in 2016.
Bowie wants to be proactive in its handling of the issue.
“When we talked about this concept with Food Lion we really wanted to attack the stigma and breakdown the stigma of people feeling like they didn’t want to come and get food because of the thought that there is something wrong with suffering from food insecurity,” Brent Swinton, Bowie State’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement told WJLA. “That’s a growing trend across the country and colleges are attacking that and Bowie State University is at the cutting edge. So we want people to feel welcome, to come in and realize that this is all about making sure nutrition is available so our students can achieve in the classroom.”
The food bank is located in the basement of the library and is open several times a week. The pantry features both non-perishable items and fresh produce, and school administrators hope to add toiletries and other supplies soon.
Sadiyah Jenkins, a senior psychology major who attended the pantry’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, told ABC News that the pantry was definitely needed. She said she would drop in once or twice a week.
“If I need more, I know I can always come back,” Jenkins said.