1 of 2
The Herald Journal, Eli Lucero, Associated Press
Amber Thompson, front, and Rachelle St. Jeor pick up food items at the Utah State University student food pantry, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, in Logan, Utah. The students who run the pantry say they recognize the current economic downturn has negatively impacted students’ lives, from preventing some from being able to pay tuition, to not being able to put food on the table.

LOGAN, Utah — One day last semester at Utah State University, a nontraditional student contacted Jordan Hunt, the executive assistant to the Associated Students of USU.

The woman told the student she was "scared" about her financial situation, being able to put food on the table while going to classes, working and paying the bills for her apartment.

The solution for her was the Student Nutrition Access Center Pantry, known as SNAC — a resource for USU students who don't have kids.

"She wanted to know if she ran into a hard time ... could she rely on the food pantry," Hunt said. "So even though she wasn't using it that day, it was a comfort for her to know that the resource was there."

The students who run the pantry say they recognize the current economic downturn has negatively impacted students' lives — from preventing some from being able to pay tuition, to not being able to put food on the table.

"It's really hard to find a job in Logan," Milligan said. "It's hard to find a job as a student because there are so many students."

USU isn't the only school starting up a food pantry. According to a recent report from National Public Radio, university-run food pantries have been popping up on campuses across the country since the recession began.

And the latest U.S. Census information from 2010 might add to reasons for starting up a food pantry: Poverty among children and among 18- to 24-year-olds has skyrocketed over the past decade, as nearly 22 percent of all young adults have incomes below the poverty level.

Boxes of Rice Chex, Campbell's chicken noodle and tomato soups, oatmeal, personal hygiene items and other products sit on the shelves of the SNAC Pantry, ready for students to pick up. To qualify, all they need is to do is give the pantry their name and student ID — and not have any children. Those with children are asked to go to the Cache Community Food Pantry in Logan.

"It's kind of run on integrity," said Madison Milligan, the pantry's director. "If you feel like you need service, we trust that."

The SNAC Pantry, created in part due to a grant by the Val R. Christiansen Service Center, is an extension of the Cache Community Food Pantry in Logan.

Hunt, the founder of the SNAC Pantry, said it was created to "fill that gap" by the Cache Community Food Pantry, which excludes students without kids.

The pantry opened Feb. 1, 2010, after members of the ASUSU looked at a food pantry program at Southern Utah University.

"SUU was really excited to help us out. They provided us a lot of information about how they run on a day-to-day operation," Hunt said. "It kind of helped us solve some of our problems when we set the SNAC Pantry up."

The Christiansen Service Center made sure when setting up the SNAC that it was not "easily abused," and so, Hunt said, "we decided to take a more secure approach by asking for their name and ID number."

Since August 2011, the SNAC Pantry has seen 77 students use the service. Over the course of that time, it has had 197 visits, Milligan said.

Each student gets a grocery bag's worth of food.

Today, the food pantry is funded through groups that do food or fund drives, Hunt said.

"It's remarkable to see the program today because it's entirely student-run," Hunt said. "Just to see students coming in and using it makes me happy. ... It started small; now it blows my mind."

He said he's not surprised that more universities around the country are creating a food pantry for students.

"Part of it is the localization of service," Hunt said. "For a long time, service has been thought of as doing something international. I think it's starting to become: What can you do in your community? Universities are well-known, tight-knit communities, especially Utah State University. It's not a surprise they (food pantries) are becoming popular because the trend of service is to look more toward your local organization."

Information from: The Herald Journal, http://www.hjnews.com