Thirty-four percent of college students are food insecure, along with 10.4% of Butler County residents, according to the Institute for Nonprofit Leadership (INL). To combat this, from Oct. 17-22, INL will hold “IZE on Food Insecurity at Slippery Rock University.” The program focuses on local food insecurity through a week of events.
Each event is geared toward spreading awareness. These events include Monday’s Grocery Bingo; Thursday’s Healthy Snack Workshop in the Smith Student Center; and a weeklong food drive across campus.
Each year, INL holds IZE week for a different issue, highlighting it and providing support.
IZE, pronounced “eyes,” is short for the endings of the words realize, empathize and mobilize. In this case, the full phrase is, “realize that food insecurity is more than it seems, empathize with those affected by food insecurity, and mobilize to break the cycle.”
Emily Bensink is a senior public health major interning for INL. She discussed the importance of focusing on food insecurity in the Slippery Rock area.
“Food insecurity is a growing problem, especially in more rural areas, and a lot of Butler County is very rural,” she said.
“Food insecurity among college students is even worse. A lot of people don’t think about students being food insecure … but a lot of students commute. In fact, more students commute than live on campus at most universities.”
INL has partnered with the Student Nonprofit Alliance (SNA), Bob’s Cupboard and Adagio Health for this year’s events. Students from SNA hosted Grocery Bingo, and a nutritionist from Adagio Health will give students healthy snack suggestions. They also discuss SNAP benefits and “help people most effectively use the SNAP benefits they get to get healthy meals,” according to Bensink.
The campus food drive is hosted by Bob’s Cupboard, a food pantry based in Patterson Hall. Although the pantry opened in 2018, Bensink stated they are still trying to raise awareness. Bob’s Cupboard will be collecting donations on Friday.
On Saturday, there will be a county-wide food drive in addition to the one on campus.
“We’ve got four different [collection] sites right now,” Bensink said. “We’re hoping to get two more that … will be distributed to different food pantries in Butler County. More specifically to rural food pantries, because sometimes they don’t get as much as Butler pantries and cupboards do.
“That’s kind of the finale to IZE week. It’s less about students and more about Butler County as a whole.”
“For on-campus students, this is a good opportunity,” she continued. “It’s a big informational week about what resources are here for students.”