Sun Devil students join forces to help classmates who can't afford to eat properly; studies show huge need for the service
Freshman year at ASU, Stephanie Kaufmann watched a friend who couldn’t afford to eat leave school.
The friend, who worked multiple jobs on top of a full-time school schedule to make ends meet, dropped out because “she just couldn’t muster up the energy anymore to keep going.” Kaufmann, now a senior majoring in drawing and art history, said. “At one point, I was sharing my meal plan with her. And even then, it just wasn’t enough.”
Moved to action, Kaufmann began pushing for a food pantry on campus to provide for students in need. After months of planning and help from fellow students and faculty, Pitchfork Pantry launched this month with locations on ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses.
“It’s been amazing how much the community has come together,” Kaufmann said in reference to the food drives and volunteer hours that helped make the pantry possible. “When you’re trying to pursue your education, the last thing you need to worry about is being hungry.”
A recent study put the number of college students in the U.S. who are food insecure — lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food — at 22 percent. College of Health Solutions assistant professor Meg Bruening conducted her own study of ASU freshmen living in residence halls in 2016 and found that among that specific group, the number was closer to 35 percent.
Considering those students are required to purchase a meal plan, that may be surprising to some. However, as Kaufmann explained, the plans aren’t always adequate. For example, students can buy plans that provide only one meal a day.
Bruening’s study also found that food insecurity is associated with unhealthy eating habits and increased rates of depression and anxiety.
“So there are some pretty intense consequences of food insecurity,” said Bruening.
At the same time Bruening was finishing up her study and working on getting a food pantry at ASU’s Downtown campus, she heard of Kaufmann’s charge to do the same in Tempe. The two joined forces, and Pitchfork Pantry was born.
Bruening helped secure funding with an ASU sustainability grant, allowing for the purchase of refrigerators so the pantries can soon provide dairy and produce in addition to pre-packaged food like soup, pasta and peanut butter. Freezers will be added as well, to store food gleanedIn relation to food, gleaning refers to collecting that is leftover and would otherwise go to waste. from local sources, including restaurants and other food banksPitchfork Pantry is working out agreements to glean from both United Food Bank and Starbucks..