A recent study by Feeding America found that 49 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they lack access to the food they need. In Missouri, more than 17 residents fall into the food gap, according to the organization's data.
A growing number of those in need are college students, as more institutions open food pantries are start programs to help.
Springfield's Missouri State University recently started a food assistance program. In Nov. 2013, they partnered with the Well of Life pantry nearby. So far, over 300 pounds of food has been given to students in need over the past five months.
"Food is not something students should have to worry about while here on campus," MSU Community Involvement Director Patrick Grayshaw said.
Grayshaw said most students who have used the program have found themselves in a bind because of unforeseen expenses, and had to make sacrifices with their budget. Now, because of the program, no student has to sacrifice food.
"Most people are actually not repeat individuals, they're just coming once or twice to kind of make ends meet before they get to a stable place," Grayshaw said.
At Ozarks Food Harvest, which supplies most of the food found in Southwest Missouri's food pantries, a steady increase in need has been noted across the board. President Bart Brown said since college students often don't qualify for tradition methods of assistance, like food stamps, they can easily be overlooked.
"They kind of fall through the cracks sometimes and I think that's why we are seeing more and more demand particularly as food prices go up and jobs continue to be hard to find for college students," Brown said.
Ozarks Food Harvest runs a mobile food pantry that makes a monthly stop at the Missouri State University campus in West Plains. Brown said the deliveries, which cost about $1,000 each month, help students of all ages -- traditional and nontraditional.
"I've had notes from those folks in those pantries saying how that one distribution that month really helped them because it got them back on their feet," Brown said.
About 100 colleges are now part of the national College and University Food Bank Association. There were almost none a decade ago.
"It's really students helping students because students volunteer and staff the food pantries," Grayshaw said.
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