ST. GEORGE — The image of a starving college student is almost as familiar to most people as the starving artist. Fortunately, college students in St. George who don’t know where their next meal is coming from can find help from a variety of resources.
Hungry college students can fill their stomachs with the assistance of the Dixie State University Food Pantry and Dixie Technical College, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services announced March 1 that they may also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on a temporary basis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dixie State University assistant director of student involvement and leadership Anilee Adams told St. George News that in a sunny town like St. George, it can be hard to see the struggles many face on a daily basis.
“There is definitely something about the smaller town feel and the sunshine that makes us think sometimes that everything here is great,” Adams said.
Nationwide, 45% of college students reported being “food insecure,” according to a 2018 survey from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. Adams said St. George isn’t immune.
“It reaches us even here, where things are really so good overall, but not everyone gets to experience that good all the time.”
According to a press release from Utahns Against Hunger, students enrolled at least half time in an institution of higher education can apply for SNAP benefits until 30 days after the federal COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.
The state of Utah has revised the SNAP eligibility list to include college students who are eligible to participate in state or federally financed work study and have an expected family contribution of $0. To find out if they qualify for benefits, students can visit their financial aid office or see their financial aid award letter.
“Students historically have significant barriers to enrolling in SNAP,” Utahns Against Hunger food security advocate Alex Cragun said in the press release. “This temporary expansion of eligibility will help many individuals who are seeking a degree or certificate. Too many college students experience hunger while in school and have to rely on the generosity of friends, family members and community pantries to meet their needs.”
Last year, the food pantry at Dixie State assisted 268 students, Adams said. In fall 2020, 87 students visited the food pantry, and so far this semester, 51 students have visited. The number is lower than usual due in large part to the fact that many students did not come to campus for classes this year, Adams said.
In St. George, college students can also take advantage of community resources such as Grace Episcopal Church, Switchpoint and Soloman’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship, where free hot meals are offered. It is possible that some students utilized those resources instead of coming to campus, Adams said.
The food pantry, located on the second floor of the Gardner Student Center, is open during normal business hours to any Dixie State student. Students can take as much as they want, but the pantry is not designed to supply them with a week’s worth of groceries. Still, the food pantry is open to students with no questions asked, and that extra nutrition will help them refuel, learn and grow, Adams said.
“Students who are hungry are not going to succeed,” she said. “It just makes me really happy when we’re able to help those students who need it most. Come if you’re in need. This is a safe space for you to come and have those needs met.”
Anyone interested in donating to the food pantry can bring it to the donation box outside the food pantry, to Adams’ office or the Student Government offices. The food pantry is always in need of canned meats such as tuna fish, beef, pork, chicken and sardines, as well as pasta products and Knorr pasta and rice packets, Adams said.
Dixie Tech chief of staff Brandi Honey told St. George News via email that the college has distributed information to students about the new SNAP eligibility. The college also supplies microwaves and small ovens in addition to affordable food options at the Xtras store. The college is continuing to offer affordable meals despite the closure of the campus cafe due to COVID and is working with partners to develop a plan to distribute free pantry packs to students.
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