The life of a college student is busy, to say the least.
Papers, exams, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities — on top of a social life — can pile up at a dizzying rate.
When financial insecurity is added to the mix, the load only gets heavier.
While common for many people in their college years, financial insecurity can be worse for some over others.
The issue was exacerbated several years ago when a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) funding issue caused students not to receive the financial aid they needed, according to the Rev. Jan Bye, Shippensburg University’s campus minister.
“A lot of students were put in a tough bind,” she said.
Not long afterward, students began telling administrators that they were struggling to pay for food, Bye said. The food insecurity these students experienced led her to create the SU food bank.
The bank, which is located in the Cora I. Grove Spiritual Center, consists of non-perishable food items that come from residence hall, church and monetary donations. Select departments also occasionally hold donation drives on behalf of the bank.
The bank is open to students throughout the week. Over university breaks, the bank can be accessed by making an appointment with Bye.
“There’s easy access to food here.” Bye said. “Students just need to come in and show ID.”
Shopping lists are placed next to the shelves, and allow students to let Bye know which items they have taken as well as what they would like to see on the shelves in the future.
United Campus Ministry — which Bye oversees — used to employ student workers who assisted in the bank’s upkeep.
Because of budget cuts, the job now falls to Bye and other SU employees in the Spiritual Center.
“Everyone has been real supportive,” Bye said. “When we need something, we put out a call and it gets brought.”
The food bank’s usage has ebbed since its opening, and now averages about 10-15 students who regularly use the service each semester, according to Bye.
However, whether the decrease is because of a lack of student awareness or need remains to be seen.
“It’s hard to get the word out to people,” Bye said.
According to a Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab study released last spring, 36 percent of students at 66 studied universities do not get enough to eat. A similar number of students said they did not have a secure place to live.
PASSHE’s financial troubles began after the 2008 recession, when operational costs skyrocketed and officials were forced to up tuition prices at the 14 state universities, according to a Billy Penn article detailing the system’s funding history.
Social work professor Michael Lyman serves on the board of Shippensburg Produce and Outreach (SPO), a fresh produce food bank based out of Katie’s Place — a gathering space for local charities, located on South Penn Street.
Every Tuesday, community members go to Katie’s Place and choose produce items for the week, depending on their income levels. SPO serves more than 600 families a month, according to the organization’s website.
A portion of SPO’s food is collected from homeowners or farmers who have extra produce. Other items are obtained from food auctions, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the SU campus farm, among others.
Although SPO is open to them, the bank is not heavily frequented by SU students.
Lyman discussed the common misconception that older people are the ones who suffer most from food insecurity. Through research with his social work students, Lyman found that in Shippensburg, young, working families struggle the most to make ends meet.
Hunger Bites — a hunger database made available through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank — reported that one in seven central Pennsylvania residents struggles with hunger. The data also suggested that price increases for rent, and heating oil and gasoline, have caused families’ budgets to become tighter.
Meanwhile, some who receive government aid make more than those who live without it, according to Lyman.
“[That is] fairly telling and typical for people dealing with food insecurity,” he said. “Really people do want to work, [but are] still not able to provide enough food for themselves.”
Lyman said he got involved with SPO shortly after the recession, when need was expectedly higher. He said, however, that the need of Shippensburg families has not really decreased since then.
To combat food insecurity, Lyman suggested that people erase the stigma they may have against those who they consider “poor.”
“A good chunk is being aware that people are hungry,” he said. “Recognize there is a problem and seek out ways to do something about it.”
SPO is open to the public on Tuesdays from 4–6 p.m. For more information, visit SPO’s website at shipout.org.