CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Just beneath the surface at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, there are places where experts have found hunger.
The experts at the university called the hunger food insecurity.
“Around 60 percent of college students, during the course of their academic career, will have some form of food insecurity to deal with, which is a pretty high number,” said Kim Buch, a UNCC professor of psychology. “(It’s) a surprisingly high number.”
Faculty members noticed more young people in need, so they partnered with Food Lion to open a campus food pantry, where student can get food for free.
College students have to study and be attentive in class, and it’s hard to stay focused when you’re hungry,” said Sean Langley, assistant director for off campus and volunteer outreach.
The Niner Food Pantry has been open for more than three months. It is serving between 30 and 50 students each week.
To qualify, students cannot be enrolled in the university meal plan. They must show their student identification and sign a “food insecurity” pledge stating they are in need.
All the food is donated and the pantry is staffed by student volunteers, who are getting an education in giving back.
“When I see people smiling, giving people their bags and they’ll come back next week, it puts a smile on my face and their faces and just makes me want to come back and do more,” sophomore Nate Equan said.
There are 120 food pantries at colleges nationwide with more than a dozen in North Carolina.
“They’re definitely appreciative,” Langley said. “To see them walk away with dignity and pride, knowing that someone is here to support them makes all the difference in the world.”