New food pantry combats student food insecurity

Abby Hopkins

Some students go to class hungry after pulling all-nighters and not having time to grab a quick bite. Others go to class hungry because they aren’t able to afford food.

Joining existing campus efforts, students from the UT Lutheran Campus Ministry founded Daily Bread, a new food pantry that seeks to end the stigma around food insecurity and provide for students experiencing it. The organization took student surveys to find out the best times, foods and approaches they could offer students and decided to run Mondays from 6- 9 p.m. at 2100 San Antonio St. #120.

Business management junior Meri Marcks helps lead Daily Bread as the ministry’s treasurer, and said there is often a bigger picture behind someone’s struggle.

“You really can see the effects of (skipping a meal), and you might do that just because you were too busy, but your friends around you may be doing that because they have no other choice,” Marcks said.

Lutheran campus pastor Brad Fuerst oversees operations of Daily Bread and said that with elevated issues such as food insecurity and mental health, today’s student population is carrying a heavier load than previous generations. According to a survey of UT students from 2014-2015, more than one in four students at UT reported dealing with food insecurity.

Fuerst said Daily Bread exists to provide hope.

“We’re proclaiming hope that you can do this, that you’re not alone, that there is help for you,” Fuerst said. “This is really what faith communities are called to do — to feed the hungry and preach hope to the hopeless in real, tangible ways like handing out food.”

Biology sophomore Madison Brenner, a leader of the pantry, said food insecurity can distract students but the issue is often overlooked.

“College is hard enough on its own,” Brenner said. “It’s difficult for students facing food insecurity to focus on school when they don’t have access to food.”

Additionally, the pantry does not require any proof of need. All a student needs is their UT ID, but students can also bring reusable grocery bags to make picking out food feel like a grocery shopping experience, Brenner said.

“We want this to be something with dignity,” Brenner said. “You don’t have to worry about anybody judging you. We just want people to feel comfortable enough to come in and get what they need.”

Daily Bread hopes to offer a mix of nonperishable items, fresh fruits and vegetables through a partnership with Keep Austin Fed and donations from anyone willing to help, Marcks said.

“(The pantry) is all about (making sure) we’re equipped to provide this,” Marcks said. “We will provide it because we care about our fellow students and fellow people in the world.”

Marcks said whether a student has a one-time or a consistent need, Daily Bread aims to be a resource for everyone.

“The Christian faith is so related to this idea of coming around a table together, being fed and providing enough for everyone who is in need and everyone around the table,” Marcks said. “Love and grace, those are what are motivating us to serve anyone and everyone with no strings attached.”