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U of I, community college open food pantries

Published: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 6:06 p.m. CDT

CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois and a community college in Champaign are opening food pantries to meet what they believe is a need among college students.

The Newman Shares food pantry at the university's St. John's Catholic Newman Center isn't sure how many students need more food than they can buy, the center's Sister Maryann Schaefer said. But the school administration believes there is a need, particularly among graduate students and upperclassmen – students who have moved out of dorms and in many cases no longer have parental financial support.

"We're figuring somewhere around maybe 30 percent of your upperclassmen and graduate students," she said. "The trend is they stay in a dorm facility for two years and then they move out into an apartment, and that's where the difficulty begins."

Campus food pantries have opened in recent years around the country to help students who don't have enough money to cover their expenses and keep themselves well-fed. In many cases they have spouses and children, too.

The University of Missouri, University of Arkansas, University of Mississippi, Auburn University and other schools in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Oregon and West Virginia have opened or are considering opening their own food pantries.

Some schools pay to help keep the pantries supplied, while many rely on donations and volunteer hours. In Champaign, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank is helping provide food.

Parkland College, which is across Champaign from the University of Illinois, draws many poorer international students taking less-expensive classes they hope will help get them into the university, Schaefer said. Many lack the money to take care of all their expenses.

That food pantry is under construction and is expected to open by Thanksgiving, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported. It's expected to be open one day a month.

The Newman food pantry will be open two nights a month.

On the opening night this week, Schaefer said, two families came by to get food.

"Both students were from Parkland," she said, adding that she anxious to see how widely the services will be used. "We have no idea, and we sit and wait."

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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