According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 38 million people in the United States are facing food insecurity. Since COVID-19, there has been a disruption in the supply chain affecting the accessibility to food. Resources like Raider Red’s Food Pantry at Texas Tech and the South Plains Food Bank are local efforts providing resources to those who need food assistance.
The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to food for an active, healthy life. Hunger and food insecurity are closely related. However, hunger is in relation to physical discomfort where food insecurity is in relation to lack of available resources for food. Food insecurity leads to hunger, according to the Feeding America website.
The Tech food pantry provides shelf-stable food, at no cost, to students that lasts about a week. Students can walk into the pantry and pick from a few food bag options including gluten-free, vegetarian and other food options.
“The food pantry is a donations based food pantry,” administrator for the Center of Campus Life, Preethi Kasilingam, said. “People either donate food directly to us or they donate money to which we use that money to buy groceries for the pantry.”
The food pantry opened in 2017, but COVID-19 slowed the distribution and launch. The food pantry is relatively new, so it only takes donations due to limited resources, space and people. If dropping off donations, email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a drop off time or donate through the Amazon wish list.
“We are very lucky because we have a lot of donors,” Kasilingam said. “A lot of student groups on campus will do food drives for us and so we get a lot of our donations from them.”
Students who need further assistance after three visits in one semester are encouraged to meet with a representative of the Office of the Dean of Students so a representative can direct students to additional resources available.
“Food insecurity is a big thing on college campuses and it’s just something that is not very well known or something that people don’t talk about,” Kasilingam said. “We understand that there is a large need. College is very expensive and it is difficult to get grants and scholarships. If there is a choice between getting gas money or food we would hope you would get gas because we have you covered on the food aspect.”
Another local resource is South Plains Food Bank, a nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger and providing resources and assistance to those on the South Plains who need it.
“Our mission is to alleviate hunger and to give hope to the hungry,” SPFB director of communications, Morgan Baker, said. “We kind of categorize that into three different areas, which are giving hope, reaching lives and fighting hunger. Those are the three things that we are here to do particularly as they pertain to the South Plains.”
The food bank began in 1983 as a donation-based organization. Since then, it has grown and become a member of Feeding America and Feeding Texas network of food banks. It covers Lubbock County but also serves the 20 surrounding counties.
“It’s about one in four children that go to bed hungry if there is no intervention,” Morgan said. “We want to be the intervention. We do a lot of different programs that center around different areas of the problem with food insecurity and try to alleviate that.”
The SPFB programs include the senior box program that caters to people 60 years old or older where the food serves specific nutritional needs. The food bank has its regular distribution that people can apply for that provides adults with food assistance every two weeks.
The SPFB has a grow program that teaches youth life and job skills, does mock interviews and provides summer jobs. The organization also hosts the children’s feeding program, which makes bags for kids to take home when they are not in school.
“We send them home with snack bags over spring break or winter break, any sort of holiday,” Morgan said. “We make sure to send them home with enough food for more than just them because they can take it home, and a hungry child means a hungry family probably.”
According to Feeding Texas, 20 percent of children in the state experience hunger. Food insecurity causes health complications and puts people in situations where they may have to choose between paying for food or utilities.
“Think about what happens to you as an adult when you get hungry,” Morgan said. “You get cranky and you get upset, it’s hard to focus and it’s hard to do anything correctly. If you put that specifically into the body of a child, you start immediately saying, ‘like, oh, that kid is just bad, look at the kind of family that he comes from.’ Well, he’s hungry. He does not have the tools to deal with the feeling of hunger. So of course he acts out and of course he can’t think of doing his work because he doesn’t have the energy or the tools to do it.”
The Feed America website lists some causes of food insecurity include poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, chronic health conditions, lack of access to health care and systemic racism and racial discrimination.
“If you are doing a relay race and one man gets to go when the gun goes off and the other man has to wait 300 years, obviously that puts him at quite a disadvantage,” Morgan said. “There are some groups of people who are not afforded the same opportunities, and that’s not their fault. It’s our job as an organization dedicated to ending hunger to give them that opportunity to be on their side no matter what.”
The SPFB hosts events throughout the year. They offer different ways to get involved and volunteer positions. Third-year nursing student, Karly Thompson, volunteered with SPFB by putting meals together for people to come pick up.
“I liked volunteering because I got to see people in my community have a great appreciation for each other,” Thompson, Leander native, said. “I went in the mornings and it was a good activity to kickstart my week.”
Those who are interested in volunteering at SPFB can call (806)-763-3003 or visit spfb.org/volunteer for more information on how to get involved.
Raider Red’s Food Pantry is open Monday-Friday and is located on the first floor of Doak Hall, room 117. More information and hours of operation are listed on the Office of the Dean of Students website.
“I think a lot of problems end up getting solved by proxy when we attack the issue of hunger, and we’re not naive to think that (the issue) is really ever going to be something that goes away,” Morgan said. “The more we can lessen it, not only does the South Plains get better, the state does, and when the state does, the country does, and when the country does, the world does. It’s not blame or guilt when it comes to asking for food assistance. We’re all human beings and we all have things we struggle with and we all deserve help.