Many college students in Vigo County face food insecurity, and that has prompted United Campus Ministries to open a food pantry to serve them.

The pantry, which provides nonperishable food items, is open to students at all Vigo County colleges — Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Ivy Tech and Harrison College. All they have to do is show a valid student identification from one of those colleges.

The pantry, located at 321 N. Seventh St. across from the ISU campus, will conduct an open house from 10 a.m. until noon Friday. During that time, the United Campus Ministries will receive a $20,900 donation from 100+ Women Who Care for the food pantry.

“It’s such a wonderful gift,” said Jane Morse, a UCM board member who also is a member of 100+ Women Who Care.

UCM will be working with the Catholic Charities Food Bank to stock the pantry, which had a “soft” opening Oct. 29. With no publicity, five students showed up in the first hour, Morse said.

UCM will not keep records identifying those who use the pantry, but it will keep track of how many college students participate.

Over the course of 70 years of service, UCM has witnessed many changes in the student bodies of the five local colleges. “One of those changes is that college students are now experiencing food insecurity,” she said.

She noted that a high percentage of ISU students are on Pell grants. “In the college world, a student who receives a Pell grant is, by definition, poor,” Morse said. Also, a high percentage of ISU students are 21st Century Scholars, which also serves low-income students.

The level of need “is shocking,” Morse said. The financial aid doesn’t cover all of their costs, and there are times when some of the students don’t know where their next meal will come from.

Items currently stocked in the food pantry include canned goods (soup, vegetables, fruit), cereal, crackers, peanut butter, rice and pasta, said Carrie Stone, UCM office manager. She staffs the pantry with the help of a few student volunteers.

The grant will help UCM stock the pantry with more and different kinds of foods. “There is a big need,” Stone said.

Teresa Exline, Indiana State University chief of staff, is a member of 100+ Women Who Care. The group “knew United Campus Ministries could really use the money,” particularly since it is just starting the food pantry. “There is definitely a need in our community” for a food pantry that serves college students, she said.

She noted that about 50 percent of ISU freshmen are Pell grant recipients and about 25 percent of ISU students are 21st Century Scholars.

UCM’s food pantry will be open every Wednesday that ISU is open. Times are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. For those who would like to donate food, non-perishables can be dropped off at the center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Those who would like to assist or donate can call United Campus Ministries at 812-232-0186.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue

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