LeadMN President Frankie Becerra and Vice President Oballa Oballa joined students and University of Nevada, Reno, officials in a discussion about hunger on campus during the ‘A Conversation on Campus Hunger’ event on April 18.
The event was hosted by previous ASUN President Hannah Jackson.
Panelists Becerra and Oballa were joined by ASUN’s previous Director of Legislative Affairs Katie Worrall, Karissa Mendaros, Student Director of Pack Provisions, and former ASUN senator Blane Merkley.
“Our recent civic engagement survey showed that 22% of our students self-reported some form of food insecurity,” said Jackson.
The panelists discussed the improvement of university institutions.
Mendaros said institutions on campus could be improved through “stronger connections between resources.”
“I think to show that a university is really invested in food insecurity on their campus is for university institutions to have a university garden that helps to supplement,” said Merkley.
The university food pantry Pack Provisions was also discussed.
“At Pack Provisions, one of the biggest things we also like to address is waste on campus,” said Mendaros. “One of the things that we do, our partnership with food and dining, is that we go to the food places that you see around campus…Our volunteers pick out all those foods that are supposed to be thrown out that week and we get them…Instead of all that being thrown out, we redistribute them to students.”
Worrall shared her concerns about Pack Provisions’ location.
“One thing that I’ve heard from students and staff about Pack Provisions specifically is not about the operations but more about the placement of it and it being in the middle of ASUN,” said Worrall. “A lot of times it’s intimidating or embarrassing to walk by a group of people.”
Many solutions were shared by the panelists and attendees of the event.
“When you’re talking about food security and addressing this, I don’t think, for the very large majority of the population, especially student populations, no one is going to say no to supporting this issue,” said Becerra. “So how do you make it very easy for them to support the issue?”
Attendees also raised concerns about mandatory student fees.
“I don’t know the feasibility of this, but finding a way for students to opt out of student fees, certain student fees, such as the fitness center,” said Merkley. “If you’re working 20 plus hours a week and you’re a full-time student, you’re probably not going to access the fitness center anyways and that’s $45 you don’t have anymore.”
Some students echoed this idea.
“Yes, the fees are there to help benefit all students,” said Andres Ingram, a student at the university. “We would like to encourage students to use these resources, however, there are certain situations and circumstances in place where students can’t access those resources there meant to benefit the student. But if they can’t actually use it, is it fair to still charge them that service fee if they’re not able to access them due to their circumstances?”
Other ideas were shared, such as food baskets with instructions on how to prepare the food, a system where students can more easily share their needs and concerns, a meal swipe sharing app, and the possibility of working with the City of Reno to get a grocery store built close to the university.
Taylor Avery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.