Steve Hoang had more than schoolwork to fret about his first year of college. He went hungry.
“I lost 25 pounds,” said the UC Irvine sophomore. “It was one of my biggest worries, that I wouldn’t have enough to eat.”
The tall, thin 18-year-old was among hundreds of students who lined up this past week to take a peek at UCI’s newly expanded food pantry, intended to help students like him.
Across Southern California and the nation, colleges and universities no longer view the concept of the starving student as an inevitable joke, but a serious issue. To address what’s become known as “food insecurity,” campuses are opening up free pantries.
Some are as small as closets. In fact, UCLA’s pantry is called the Food Closet.
Others began small and grew.
Cal State San Bernardino on Thursday dedicated their renamed Obershaw DEN pantry, which was remodeled and has added refrigeration for perishables.
A day earlier, the UCI campus celebrated the opening of a remodeled pantry touted as the biggest in the UC system. At more than 1,800 square feet, it features not only free food and toiletries but sitting areas, a “kitchenette” with small appliances and a space for weekly food demonstrations and nutrition talks.
There are more than 540 campus food pantries across the U.S. registered with the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which is tracking the trend.
All UC campuses–and all but one of the California state universities–now have food pantries, as do many community colleges.
Even some pricey private colleges, including Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Chapman University in Orange, say they have students who simply can’t afford to cover the cost of tuition, books, labs, transportation and food.
“Some LMU students were surprised to see that kind of need at LMU,” said Lorena Chavez, the university’s assistant director for community engagement. Then, they began inquiring about it for research papers and to offer…