BOISE -- A recent study shows more than 40 percent of Boise State University students are - or have been - food insecure.
A pretty staggering statistic that means they don't have reliable access to a sufficient supply of affordable and nutritious food. So the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) is stepping up to help their fellow Broncos.
BSU's student government started a fundraiser a few weeks ago to combat the issue. They are planning to launch food cupboards across campus, so no student has to worry about where their next meal will come from.
Food insecurity is a problem researchers found is growing on college campuses nation -wide, but is often invisible.
"The issue has kind of gotten brushed under the rug a lot of times and it's not something people are apt to talk about; that they don't have an adequate source of food throughout their day is not something that comes up in everyday conversation," ASBSU Student Body President Sienna George said.
The initiative sparked after a public administration professor asked ASBSU to get involved last spring. The Idaho Policy Institute surveyed and quantified food insecurity on campus and worked with public administration students to identify obstacles that make overcoming food security on campus a challenge. They ultimately made a recommendation that to alleviate the problem, BSU should launch a campus food pantry.
When Idaho Policy Institute revealed that 41 percent of BSU students haven't been able to access a reliable, sufficient amount of food, George said it was a wake-up call.
"I had no idea. That's insane. That's a lot," one student, sophomore Lilia Dewilde, said. "Thinking of how a lot of my friends are struggling with just, like, paying rent or bills - or even I think that way sometimes, I'm like, oh my gosh can I pay rent? So knowing how high the percentage is and all the people I know, definitely I would probably know a lot of people that would be affected by this."
"Hearing that 23 percent of students have experienced very high levels of food insecurity and then 18 percent have experienced high levels was really shocking for me," George said, "And then we found out Boise State is the only institution in the state of Idaho that doesn't yet have a project or a food bank to kind of tackle the issue - we thought, OK, well we obviously need to do something like this."
There is an off-campus food pantry for BSU students, faculty, staff and community called the Horse Bit located at St. Paul's Catholic Center and Euclid Community Church, but ASBSU felt the need for on-campus resources.
"If you don't have an adequate amount of food you're likely to not be able to have the energy to carry you throughout the rest of your day. So that can be really dangerous not only health-wise, but also just in terms of students being able to academically perform in a classroom," George added. "We know that students that don't have enough to eat can't perform well in the classroom and they're a lot less likely to get involved outside of the classroom."
"Thinking: Am I gonna eat? That's stress already. And then not having food, trying to take a test. Some people are on campus all day doing classes, doing school work, studying," Dewilde added. "having that meal is just that much more important, you know. So I think not having it can be a super negative effect, and knowing that they have that meal can have such positive effects as well."
So the Associated Students of Boise State university is stepping up to help, hoping to change the statistics by setting up a dozen food cupboards at different buildings, colleges and departments across campus for Broncos experiencing food insecurity.
"It's gonna make everything so much easier," Dewilde said. "I thought it was really cool."
"The food cupboards are really gonna allow students to have access to this food no matter where they might be on campus. Running between classes, they don't have to go from one side of campus to the other. It'll be located in all the different colleges and departments and then accessible as long as those buildings are open during the day," George said.
George says every food cupboard is going to be fully stocked with nutritious meal options and grab-n-go snacks informed by th on-campus dietician. Every meal/snack will have an instruction card and can be prepared and ready to eat in under ten minutes and you would only need a microwave or hot plate.
In addition, each cupboard will be stocked with basic school supplies.
"We never want a student to have to choose between having enough to eat and having the supplies they need to succeed in the classroom," George added.
ASBSU set up an online campaign through a partnership with PonyUp (Boise State's unique crowdfunding tool) and is hoping to raise $5,000 by December 10.
Bronco Shops are helping out, too, by doing a round up campaign: when you shop at any of the Bronco Shop locations, a clerk will ask you upon check out if you would like to round up. All rounded up donations go straight to the No Bronco Hungry campaign.
This week, ASBSU launched their Helmet Cart rides: they officer rides to class in the famed helmet card and upon pick-up, they ask that you make a donation of $5 to $10. All proceeds go directly to the food cupboard PonyUp campaign. Students can sign up here.
"Boise State students are some active community members as well, and so if these students don't have enough to eat in a day it's not likely they're going to be able to reach their full potential on an empty stomach. It's a really important project to get behind just because these students go out and they actually end up contributing to our local community," George told KTVB.
"If you were food insecure and you didn't know if you were going to eat at the end of the day, wouldn't you want others to help you? So just do it!" Dewilde said.
ASBSU has raised a little more than 50-percent of their $5,000 goal. They are asking for your help in reaching that mark. Head to this link to learn more and donate.