UT needs to destigmatize food bank use, improve resources

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Photo Credit: Sally Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Food insecurity is a serious problem that many students deal with on a daily basis. Food gives us energy, and going to a university like UT expends a lot of energy. We’re expected to do a lot here, and worrying about a need as basic as food can severely affect performance. 

Currently, the most well-known resources for UT students with food insecurity are UT Outpost and Daily Bread. At UT Outpost, students can ask for a bag of food. An attendant will ask how much a student can carry, and then return to the student with either one or two reusable bags filled with strictly nonperishable food. 

Students don’t get to choose what they take, and very often students with limited access to kitchens — such as students who live in dorms with one kitchen for all residents — will have trouble finding ways to make things like pasta
or rice. 

In addition, UT Outpost is open for a limited amount of hours each day from Tuesday to Friday, which makes it difficult for some students get the food that they need. Students who have late classes or are taking many hours might have trouble accessing these resources. 

Daily Bread is run by the Lutheran Campus Ministry. Students can grab a bag and self-select the items they wish to take. While Outpost typically has nonperishable food, Daily Bread has produce and baked goods as well, and students do not have to show proof of financial need for Daily Bread. 

Unfortunately, Daily Bread is only open on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., so access is again limited and students who use this pantry will have to plan their meals for the week and hope that they take enough to eat. 

While these organizations are available to help students with food insecurity, it can actually be challenging to use these resources, especially if students have always associated food with the money needed to work for it. The idea of walking up to a place and walking away with a week’s dinner is daunting. 

Taking food without having to pay seems wrong or dishonest. Many students might refuse to use both of these organizations because they feel they do not deserve them or that they are not “in need enough” to utilize these resources. 

This kind of emotional insecurity can severely affect whether students with food insecurity are actually able to get the food they need in order to live. 

For UT students that live in dorms, the change from a declining balance of Dine In Dollars to an unlimited pass to J2 and Kins Dining means that students will no longer be closing out each semester having to look off-campus for food. 

This is a great resource for freshmen who can afford the dorm and dining hall food plan. It does not, however, cover all students. 

The new dining hall plan is also available to those that do not live in dorms, but in order to access the dining halls off-campus commuters must pay almost twice as much for the same food. 

Significant steps have been taken at UT in order to reduce food insecurity. However, there are still quite a few issues that need to be addressed if the issue is to be erased. The University needs to establish more pantries on campus with increased hours and options for students with food insecurity. 

Kolev is a radio-television-film senior.