Weber State University has a new program on campus directed towards students who don’t have enough money to buy groceries. This is the Weber Cares Food Bank, and it opened its doors on Monday, September 26, 2011 to all enrolled students.

The main goals of the food bank are to decrease food insecurity, increase retention, and to have healthier eating options for students. “Food insecurity” can be described as not having enough money to buy a healthy meal. These are the students living on a ramen noodles diet for weeks. Along with a healthy diet, the food bank hopes to prevent students from dropping out or extending their college stay because they can’t afford tuition and books over their basic needs.

“Students are experiencing, just as much as the larger community, difficulty with food,” said Mike Moon, assistant director of the Community Involvement Center.  “It’s not necessarily in students purchasing food to live, but they’re decreasing the value of their food to cheaper food.”

According the Utah Food Bank website, more than 400,000 Utahns risk missing one meal a day and 63,000 eat dinner at a soup kitchen. Utah is also ranked fourth in the nation for the highest rate of very low food insecurity.

In the past students could get vouchers with no questions asked to receive a hot meal from the Sodexo dining services at Weber. Those vouchers are still available for students who might need a meal right away, but the requirements have switched with the food bank. Now students have to fill out paperwork and show identification to get the voucher for an immediate meal. To receive food from the pantry, one needs to be enrolled at WSU and show their Wildcard.

“Students can get food for themselves, as well as any dependents,” said Moon. “A son or daughter under the age of 18, and/or a spouse.”

When students go to “shop” at the pantry, they are given two bags that they can fill. There is a wide variety of food options. Students can choose from breakfast items, pasta, fruits, vegetables, boxed goods, and beans. The program keeps a tally of who visits the pantry, so if a student visits frequently, the CIC can direct them to other services, like cooking on a budget classes, and information on sales at local grocery stores.

In November the CIC will host a Hunger Banquet and will take the donated food collected at the event to stock the shelves for the pantry at WSU, and then donate the rest to Catholic Community Services.

The food bank is open Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and is located on the second floor of the Shepard Union Building in the Diversity Center.  The CIC welcomes food donations from all. Contact the CIC at 801-626-7737 for more information on how to donate or receive food.

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