You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Food banks on rise at college campuses

The 100 block of Decatur Street in downtown Atlanta is a cacophony of honking horns, coughing motors and fleeting foot traffic, where students scurry to Georgia State University classrooms in search of their future.

They are a complicated lot, a mix of old and young, black, white and other who more and more find their hopes threatened by, of all things, hunger.

For the longest time, it was as if they didn’t even exist. Then Nicole L. Johnson, a former coordinator of student assistance at Georgia State, began to notice students were facing challenges far beyond those presented in the classroom. As the cost of tuition and living expenses rise, some students aren’t sure where their next meal will come from.

The issue is a hard one to measure. There are little data on hungry college students but here at Georgia State, 75 percent of students need financial aid. Such a high percentage runs counter to what seems to be a middle class existence but officials say it, and increasing numbers of older students, help explain the rise in college food banks here and across the country.

Clare Cady co-founded of The College and University Food Bank Alliance in 2011 in response to the flagging economy and increased demand for food from students. That year 15 campuses signed on for the effort. Today, she said, more than 200 college campuses across the country have food banks and the number continues to grow.

The University of Georgia has had a food bank since 2011. Both Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech have one. The need was so great at UGA, it expanded its opening from three to five days a week last year.

With the opening of the Panther’s Pantry last spring, Georgia State is tackling the issue on its campus.

“Food security is an essential need and yet inadequate nourishment is a reality for many of our students,” said Leslie Knapp, a Georgia State graduate and registered dietitian.

Although campus meal plans offer unlimited access to an “all you can eat” dining experience, I know from experience those costs can be out of reach and impractical for many students. According to the GSU website, for instance, an unlimited seven-day meal plan for the 2015-2016 academic year, costs $1,898 a semester. A five-day plan saves students $101 per semester.

Reminds me of my cable bill. I feel like I’m being held hostage every time I pay.

When Johnson started sharing stories about hungry students a few years ago, GSU officials asked how they could help.

“Students weren’t dropping out of school for disinterest or grades, it was mostly for financial reasons,” said Cathy McCarroll, a retired GSU faculty member.

McCarroll and Knapp, along with other graduate nutrition students, drew up plans for a food pantry. With help from a few students and other campus supporters, Panther’s Pantry opened during the spring 2015 semester in the university’s old print shop, located on the ground floor parking deck of the Urban Life Building.

It’s a small, bright space at the corner of Piedmont and Decatur Street that is far enough from the street to allow for student privacy.

“It’s not always easy for a student to ask for food,” McCarroll said.

Senior nutrition majors, and pantry volunteers Sohee Ko, Lindsey Mikolaicik and Diana Parker can vouch for that.

Parker has never lacked food but she knows students who have, including a friend who confided in her that the only food she had was rice.

“It was a grave situation,” Parker said

The Pantry is run by Barbara Hopkins, an undergraduate program advisor who teaches in the Department of Nutrition, and the Nutrition Student network.

They estimate seeing about five students on each Wednesday they were open during the summer. They expect that number to increase exponentially this fall, when the pantry will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and two Fridays a month.

Any student with a current Georgia State Panther ID card can get food from Panther’s Pantry. No questions asked.

Georgia State is situated in the middle of Atlanta’s food desert, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as low-income communities located more than one mile from a reliable source of fresh produce and other healthy whole foods. Even if students have food stamps, they often run out before the end of the month or can’t use them at the school’s food retail establishments.

Graduate students are particularly hard hit because they often have families themselves.

“We’re growing as a campus but that doesn’t change the students who are coming in,” Knapp said. “There are still hardships, a lot students are struggling financially.”

The main goal of Panther’s Pantry is to help alleviate short-term food insecurity for students. Knapp hopes that’ll be enough to keep students enrolled without having to worry about where they’ll get their next meal.

“It’s a lot easier to concentrate when your stomach is full,” she said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

Concert review and photos: Sheryl Crow hit the W Buckhead during the day, Chastain at night
Concert review and photos: Sheryl Crow hit the W Buckhead during the day, Chastain at night

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene Early Sunday afternoon, Sheryl Crow arrived on a small stage set up inside the W Atlanta Buckhead.

COLOR-PROOF CURLS Color proof curly hair with TruCurl Curl Perfecting Shampoo and Conditioner ($35 each) by ColorProof. The first luxury shampoo and conditioner designed for naturally curly, color-treated hair helps eliminate frizz and increase shine while hydrating thirsty curls. Ingredients include seaweed, grapeseed oils and ColorProof’s proprietary...
Behind the scenes with Marvel “Avengers” stars and their trendy drinks
Behind the scenes with Marvel “Avengers” stars and their trendy drinks

It’s important to stay hydrated no matter who you are when it’s summertime in Atlanta. If you’re a superhero, it’s all the more crucial. So it was a relief to see that Robert Downey Jr., who plays Tony Stark/Iron Man in Marvel movies including the two “Avengers” pictures filming this summer out of the Pinewood Studios...
Tyler Perry makes a surprise announcement

Tyler Perry always seems to be juggling a slew of projects at any given time. He’s teamed up with “The Walking Dead,” has visited the White House in the past (and posted this video just the other day that seemed to suggest he’d made a return visit). In character as Madea he once told President Donald Trump what for and has a...
Janet Jackson loving motherhood as she gets back into her music, producer says
Janet Jackson loving motherhood as she gets back into her music, producer says

Janet Jackson welcomed her very first child, son Eissa, in January and is having a great time being a mom! “She’s so happy,” her longtime producer, Jimmy Jam, told Entertainment Tonight. “I get FaceTime [calls] at like two in the morning, usually when I’m wrapping up in the studio. It’s always just Isa [on FaceTime]...
More Stories