Needy Students Flooding College Food Banks

Campus Food Banks Say Spike In Need Has Been 'Exponential'

Food banks on Denver college campuses are seeing a surge in the number of students who are coming in to request free canned goods and other non-perishables.

Metro State College opened its food bank last September.

"We went from an average of about eight people a week up to about 12 people a week, and now we're somewhere around 30 a week," said food bank coordinator Brittany Pyle.

Food bank workers say the recession has nearly doubled the number of visits to the Metro State Food Bank.

"There's been a definite increase," said food bank coordinator Natalie Romero. "Last semester, we had 443 students come in and this semester alone we've already had 449 students and that's just the first two months of the semester."

The increased demand had nearly depleted the donations that Romero and Pyle had expected to rely on throughout the semester, and now they are planning a food drive to get more donations.

"We're really running low because we have such an increase in people coming in," said Pyle.

The reasons that more students are coming in are varied. Some have lost jobs. Others simply cannot cope with higher food prices and are being forced to make difficult choices.

"The questions are, 'Do I pay rent? Do I buy food?'" Romero said.

At Metro State's food bank and the food pantry at the Community College of Denver, anyone with a student I.D. can get up to six free food items a week.

"The food has been, like, flying off the shelf," said Kim Guthrie, a food bank worker at the Community College of Denver.

Guthrie said last semester the food bank served 160 students. Less than halfway through this semester, 121 students have already been served.

Students are taking away pasta, spaghetti sauce, ramen noodles, cereal and snack foods.

"If you're worried about what you're gonna eat for dinner, then you can't think about the math test you're gonna do," said Antonio Valenzuela, a Community College of Denver student who has been frequenting the food bank for months as a way to supplement his work study job. "I usually get stuff that will last a while, like maybe some spaghetti."

Pyle called the food bank a helping hand for those students who are not eligible for food stamps, but still need assistance.

"We need help, too," Pyle said.

Food bank workers said the biggest demand is yet to come.

"We're expecting to see pretty much exponential growth from this point on," said Pyle.

"I expect more students to come," Guthrie agreed. "I just see it increasing."

Typically there is increased demand for food at the end of a semester when financial aid starts to run out.

Metro State's Pasta and Protein food drive is Thursday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Workers are requesting non-perishable items and gift cards. You can drop them off at room 311 of the Tivoli Student Union.

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