By: Alana Ridge
14.7% of Nevadans are living at or below the poverty level.
This statistic haunted the audience at the Pack Provisions’ first annual food insecurity panel.
As the only on-campus food, clothing and supply pantry tailored specifically for the University of Nevada, Reno community, Pack Provisions continued the conversation on how to solve the problems of student food insecurity at Nevada by hosting the panel.
With the panel, the organization hoped to spread awareness of food insecurity and discover solutions to the growing problem. The night began with a showing of a short documentary entitled “A Place at the Table,” which examines the issue of hunger in the United States. The evening continued with a facilitated question-and-answer session with a panel of professionals: Dr. Jamie Benedict, Associate Professor of Nutrition at UNR; Dr. Michael Wright, Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work and Bachelor’s of Social Work Program Coordinator at UNR; Ms. Jenny Yeager, Director of Programs and Community Engagement for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada; and Ms. Salena Carr, BSW Candidate and Member of FUSED at Nevada.
According to Yeager, the poverty level is a much better indicator of food insecurity than unemployment.
“To think that one in five kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from, that’s a problem for the state and a problem for us as a community,” Yeager said to the audience.
What helps with reducing the rates of hunger in our state?
“Financial literacy,” Wright said. “There’s the idea that the amount of money you receive in federal assistance is only going to last for three weeks. We need to educate our children and our families in need.”
Access to healthy food is another issue Carr wants to tackle. She is especially passionate about creating an environment where everyone has access to wholesome meals.
“Here in Reno, we have a bunch of motels on Fourth Street where people live,” Carr said. “Most of the motels don’t have kitchens, and the closest place to buy food is a gas station. I think it’s important to make affordable grocery stores like WinCo more accessible for our low income populations.”
As Pack Provisions serves college students in need, the stigma around asking for help in college is often a difficult obstacle to face.
“Because I didn’t live on campus, I didn’t have access to places like the Downunder Cafe,” Carr said. “I was really jealous of those students who had that type of access to food. Just asking for help is a struggle, but speaking up was so important because I learned about Pack Provisions and the amazing services they offer.”
The discussion led to Brittany Brown, Student Director of Pack Provisions, asking a very pointed question: “What can UNR and the university community do to better support the students, staff and faculty that are food insecure?”
“Certainly having events like this panel will help to raise awareness,” Benedict answered. “I also think disseminating information on campus about not only nutrition assistance programs but also other programs that might offset the cost that you incur when you’re a college student.”
“Do whatever you can to get the word out about Pack Provisions. We are so proud to be a partner and support the pantry here on campus,” Yeager said.
It’s true — Pack Provisions gets it. The organization has various items to give to students, faculty and staff in need and local services to refer visitors to. With organizations like Pack Provisions and with events like their food insecurity panel that call attention to food insecurity in our community, we can slowly solve the problem of hunger in Reno.
“Invest in education,” Wright stated. “We need to start by standing up as Nevadans to educate the community about hunger.”
Pack Provisions is located in the ASUN Center for Student Engagement on the 3rd floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union. Student volunteers staff the Pack Provisions help window, but even when no volunteer is available, students can ask the Center for Student Engagement Front Desk staff for assistance.
The Center for Student Engagement is open during fall and spring semesters Monday-Friday from 8am-8pm and Saturday from 10am-2pm. During winter, spring and summer breaks, the Center for Student Engagement is open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm.
Visit the Pack Provisions website for more information and to get involved.