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Food insecurity leaves some college students to rely on campus food pantries in St. Louis

Food Illustration
LA Johnson
Students are increasingly relying on campus food pantries to meet basic needs.

The food pantry at St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley is a staple for students like Nyla Coleman. She often grabs a quick snack between classes. With rising food costs, the pantry’s source of groceries has become a source of support.

“If you need groceries, if you don't have the money to go to the grocery store, they have everything you need,” Coleman said. “And I think that's really neat, that it's open to everyone because … it just saves a lot of money. It saves a lot of money.”

Students like Coleman have increasingly relied on local pantries. There are several possible factors, said Jo Britt-Rankin, administrative director of SNAP-Ed. That includes the expiration this year of relaxed pandemic rules, which allowed 3 million college students who typically wouldn't to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“We do see a number of places around the state where we find people of all ages that have food insecurity,” said Britt-Rankin. “But it is alarming to know the number of college students who are struggling to be food secure.”

Pantries like Archer's Market at St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley, Triton Pantry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Cougar Cupboard at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville are accessible to all students, with few barriers.

SNAP, on the other hand, requires application and approval that can often be challenging for nontraditional students, said Shannon Quinn, a case manager at UMSL’s Advocacy and Care center.

Quinn helps students apply for SNAP. The process isn’t simple, and its household status and work eligibility requirements can be challenging for students who work, still live with their parents or are supporting families of their own.

“College students are very busy. Time poverty is a thing, not just for nontraditional students,” Quinn said, adding: “There's a lot of barriers when they get to the application. They're like, ‘I don't know how to answer this,’ and they just need assistance.”

Food security is often the most basic need students seek. Pantries at SLCC, UMSL and SIUE are now equipped with specialists who work to connect them with other resources like housing assistance.

“There's still more we can do to help support college students that are hungry and are needing to be more food secure,” Britt-Rankin said.

For the full conversation with Shannon Quinn and Jo Britt-Rankin about how local colleges are supporting students, listen to the full St. Louis on the Air conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

Hear STLCC students share why they value food support from the school

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Ulaa Kuziez is a junior studying Journalism and Media at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and has worked with various student publications. In her free time, you can find her at local parks and libraries with her nephews.