20% of Marquette students are hungry


MILWAUKEE — Students in Wisconsin are back to normal this fall semester.

Many face an issue that closely affects the people of Wisconsin: food insecurity.

This is where the Marquette University backpack program bridges the gap. A 2018 survey found that 20% of students attending Wisconsin’s largest private college are or have been food insecure.

“Coming to Marquette and hearing that one in five of our students is food insecure, it really had an impact and really surprised me,” said junior Elizabeth Mantey, who is a volunteer for the program. backpack. “It made being part of this program even more of a desire for me. “

The backpack program is a free service, providing nutritious food to students in need. Students can request bags weekly or as needed. No name, no proof of eligibility and no questions needed.

John Brown, another volunteer, has personal knowledge of the fight against food insecurity. He was on a free and reduced meal in high school.

Brown was raised by a single mother to whom he credits working hard to support herself.

“There is a concept that Marquette’s kids are wealthy and suburban and that may be true, but I’m from northwest Chicago,” he said. “I came here mainly with financial aid, otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now. “

Christine Little, director of recovery and food assistance on the Marquette University campus, said she sees the stigma of food insecurity every day. She noted that it is often not discussed or studied at the college level.

“A lot of the students might have had a free and reduced lunch in high school, but it ends when they graduate,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize that food insecurity exists in college and it’s kind of a silent problem.”

Little said there was no hard data to show which demographic most often requested food through the backpack program in Marquette, due to privacy concerns. She added that the program sees more first-generation, low-income and minority students every year.

“There is a direct correlation between food insecurity and graduation,” she said. “Just knowing that we can remove one less stress so that students can focus on why they are here is huge. “

The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for the backpack program. Little said that in 2019, when the program started, they were averaging 150 bags per month. In the spring of 2020, they were up to between 600 and 650 bags.

“Marquette is also a food desert,” she said. “We have Sendiks, but it’s a higher price and there’s nothing else within walking distance from campus.”

Since its inception in 2019, the backpack program has served approximately 350 students and more than 1,800 bags have been requested.

“Hunger comes in many different forms and presents itself everywhere, so you can never judge a book by its cover,” Brown said.

Little added that it is essential to realize that most scholarships cannot be used to buy food.

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