To address food insecurity among college students, more colleges and universities nationwide opened food pantries this semester.
Though BYU-Idaho doesn’t have one, resources are available in and out of the university that students can utilize to fill their food needs.
According to a 2020 Hope Survey, “at two-year colleges, 38% of respondents experienced food insecurity in the 30 days prior to the survey, with just over 16% experiencing low food security and a little more than 22% experiencing very low food security. At four-year colleges, 29% of students reported experiencing food insecurity.“
The study defined food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food in a socially acceptable manner.“
According to a survey of students conducted at BYU-I in 2019, 21.18% of respondents experienced very low food security.
The survey used the same definitions, questions and metrics as the USDA to determine food insecurity.
Nearly 14% of married students and 26.02% of single students experienced very low food security.
Students, according to the survey, had mixed feelings about whether “the university does enough to help alleviate hunger or a lack of food among students.”
In response to the previous statement, a little over 28% of students agreed to some degree that the university does enough. About 47% neither agreed nor disagreed. About 25% of respondents disagreed to some degree.
17% of respondents indicated they had been to a food pantry.
University and Church Support
Kristie Lords, student well-being managing director, said that even though BYU-I has no food pantry, students can find support through her Dean of Students Office as well as their ecclesiastical leaders.
Students who are members are encouraged to first meet with their Bishops.
Wade Gordon, the bishop of the YSA 77th Ward, said ecclesiastical leaders are expected to follow the guidelines as outlined in the Church’s general handbook.
After other options for assistance through family, government and the community are explored, a Bishop can authorize assistance in the form of food orders from the Bishop’s Storehouse.
If that is insufficient, Lords encourages students to visit her office, which can provide additional assistance including emergency food.
If a student’s challenges are long-term, her office can continue to work with them individually.
“We can look at different options and resources that the university has that can help support the student as they work to grow their academic, spiritual and emotional growth,” Lords said.
The Dean of Students Office has participated in larger efforts in the past to assist students who struggled to get food.
When the university closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students who were unable to leave Rexburg were provided two free meals a day at the Crossroads. At the initiative’s peak, there were between 300 and 500 meals a day served.
“When I tell you I’m serious about it, I’m serious about it.” Lords said. “Our presidents and vice presidents care deeply about students and we don’t want anyone to be hungry, ever.”
With both church and university assistance, the process is focused on the individual, their long-term growth and the development of self-reliance.
Gordon said that when a student comes to meet him about financial struggles, he wants to find the root cause.
“I want to find what’s causing this so I can be in a position to help them and come up with a plan,” Gordon said.
Lords said her office seeks to prepare students for the future by helping them budget their money and learn how to meet their needs.
She said that an academic pause is recommended at times to help the student have time to work and become financially stable. Though students are generally required to stay on their assigned track, deferments can be given or extended based on an individual’s needs.
“When they feel like they’re secure to move forward, we just open the doors wide open and help them get in without having to reapply again,” Lords said.
Three food pantries are available in the Rexburg area.
The Rexburg Mobile Food Pantry distributes food boxes once a month at the Wilcox Fresh Warehouse. The address is 4915 South Highway 191, Thornton, ID.
The Second Helpings Food Bank, located at the Family Crisis Center, is available to all Madison County residents including students. Residents must bring proof of residency. Food is distributed every Wednesday and Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
The Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership also distributes food in Rexburg to eligible clients.
To those who do not want to ask for or receive help, Lords’ response was that to be independent is to know when to reach out for assistance.
“It’s not to take anything away from them or their ability to grow and build,” Lords said. “It’s to strengthen them so that they can.”