Editor's note: This article has been updated to credit University Health Services as the source for food security statistics.
Last spring, UT Outpost opened its doors two days a week to help students struggling with food insecurity and access to professional clothing. This semester, the Outpost, an on-campus food pantry and career closet for students, expanded its hours to include two more days.
One in four UT students deal with some form of food insecurity, according to University Health Services. UT Outpost coordinator Will Ross said the center expanded its hours to give students more opportunities to visit.
“Maybe students are commuting, maybe they have work to get to or maybe it’s hard to get across town at that time,” Ross said. “Our goal is to serve our students the best possible way, and that is what we are trying to do.”
The center runs on donations and volunteer support. Ross said an increase in volunteers has supported the expansion because they help sort food for the pantry and inspect clothes for the career closet.
“It’s a great honor to have folks donating not only their donations, but also the gift of time,” Ross said. “I think this is a great opportunity for students to make a huge impact on our campus.”
Philosophy junior Sean McManis has volunteered at the center for almost a year. He said volunteering has been a moving experience because he sees how the center has a positive impact on students.
“There are people who could possibly change the world, and maybe they might not succeed in that endeavor because of a food insecurity,” McManis said. “I want to take part in a very important initiative for a foundational problem and improve students’ lives in general.”
Alicia Willoughby, an international relations and global studies sophomore, said she believes no one should deal with food insecurity while in college, and the Outpost is a great way for UT to give back.
“I definitely think it is something I would use as source if I ever needed it,” Willoughby said. “Hopefully I don’t ever have to use it and I can leave those sources for other students, but if I ever needed to, I would.”
Ross said the Outpost is still looking to expand and improve in the future, but change starts with the students.
“I feel like UT has a culture of supporting each other,” Ross said. “Even one hour out of your whole semester can make a big impact on a Longhorn’s life.”