The U of M’s Tigers Fight Hunger initiative, which includes the Tiger Pantry and the Tigers Fight Hunger Meal Card Program, was created to support students who struggle with food insecurity, which is a state of having no reliable access to affordable and nutritious food.
The Pantry is an on-campus facility filled with non-perishable food items, personal hygiene items and household supplies for students in need. During the 2017-18 academic year, the Pantry served more than 130 students, with the average student using the pantry three times, according to Arielle Brown, the case manager for the Office of Student Accountability, Outreach and Support.
Brown said some students may live in a food desert, or an area where transportation costs are high, and there is no readily available access to grocery stores.
“Food insecurity is a big issue in the community,” Brown said. “We are in the process of increasing our Tigers Fight Hunger services by establishing community partnerships to help us bring a larger variety of fresh and non-perishable food items to the Pantry.”
Students can support the Pantry by volunteering their time to organize and market items or by donating items. A Pantry wish list of food items, toiletries and household goods can be found at memphis.edu/studentaffairs by clicking on the “DOS” tab and then “Tiger Pantry” under the Crisis Resources drop-down menu.
The Tigers Fight Hunger Meal Card Program allows students to donate guest meals onto cards which are then distributed to students in need. Brown said this program served 71 students a total of 760 meals during the 2017-18 academic year.
Donated guest meals can be used at Tiger Dining locations on both the Main campus and the Lambuth campus.
Brown said students who receive assistance through this program are also given additional resources to improve their well-being and achieve their long-term goals.
Food insecurity is an issue affecting more than a third of college students in the United States, according to a study from the Wisconsin Hope Lab in April 2018. Of students who responded to the survey, 36 percent reported they experienced food insecurity during the previous month.
Not having enough food to meet basic needs can cause students to suffer from malnutrition and illness, according to Elena Delavega, an associate professor of social work at the University of Memphis and associate director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change.
“Students who face food insecurity cannot perform well in school,” Delavega said. “Being hungry is distracting, and the brain needs fuel to function properly.”
This fuel should be nutritious food like fruits and vegetables, but students who are food insecure do not have ready access to these items. Delavega said these students may have high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses.
“A person can be overweight and malnourished because they eat cheap and filling foods, not nutritious foods,” Delavega said.
Some students may even have to choose between eating or paying for another need.
“Usually people cut food because that is easier to cut than other things,” Delavega said.
A Tigers Fight Hunger Meal Donation Drive will take place Sept. 10–21 between noon and 2 p.m. at the University Center Atrium. Students will have the opportunity to designate how many meals they would like to donate.