University Moves to Support Food-Insecure Students

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Philip Hickey is a fourth-year student at Ohio University. He says he sometimes runs out of money for food because he pays so much for school. This is how he became a food-pantry user.

“It’s not a good feeling to be like, hey, I need food,” he said while picking up canned vegetables at the new food pantry at Ohio University.

The new food pantry is still inside Baker Center, but it has been moved to the fifth floor.

Assistant Dean of Students Kathy Fahl said the new pantry provides more space, refrigerators with fresh soups, and …

“It provides more privacy – as you know the fourth floor pantry was in a hallway so it was fairly visible,” she said.

In addition to the new location, users of the new food pantry will now have to swipe their OU IDs to get in.

“Up until this point we really did not know who were utilizing the resources,” Fahl said. “It [the ID swipe] will allow us to communicate with those using it; we want to make sure our students are aware of certain benefits there might be available for them, like SNAP or HEAP.”

The Stigma

Fahl said she hopes the stigma of using the food pantry , combined with the swiping requirement won’t prevent someone from using those services. Beginning his week the university will distribute flyers and post digital advertisements to help de-stigmatize the process.

Brian Jones, fourth-year OU student and food pantry user. Picture: Gabe Genovessi

Brian Jones, a fourth year student and pantry user said he appreciates the effort.

“I don’t know how they are going about that but is cool they are thinking of that because I’m sure that deters people from coming here,” he said. “They don’t want to kind look like they are needy.”

Hickey said he is happy with the change.

“I think the swiping makes me feel a little better; makes me feel like this is for students, and that makes you feel better,” he said. “Before it was like, here’s a hallway full of food and just ran off, make sure you don’t steal it, like take it if you want – now it’s a little more welcoming.”

Normalizing the Use of a Resource

Fahl says the university’s aim is to work toward normalizing food-pantry use.

“This is another resource just like any other in campus, just like you go to the gym and you get to use that resource of a bike for your physical health, this is where you can come and get food for your physical and your mental health too,” she said.