DENVER — A new study found many Denver college students struggle with knowing if they'll have enough to eat. 

The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice conducted the survey, which included local schools: Metropolitan State University, University of Colorado Denver, University of Denver, and Community College of Denver. About 3,000 (an estimated 4.6%) people responded to the survey.

Of those who did respond, 40% said they experienced food insecurity in the prior 30 days.

“If you’re hungry, you’re not able to focus on your studies because you’re hungry,” said Erica Quintana-Garcia, a case management coordinator at MSU Denver. She also oversees the Roadrunner Food Pantry, which serves students on campus.

“They come and register with our front desk then they’re welcome to shop around and get whatever they need,” she explained.

The Roadrunner Food Pantry first opened in 2007, Quintana-Garcia said. She said 562 students are registered this year, counting from January through now.

“Some people just want to stop in and get a pastry or bagel before class, maybe a cup of ramen between classes,” she said. “And some people are using it [more] to support their family. They’re using the pasta we have, the canned food, the peanut butter.”

The pantry also stocks toiletries and diapers.

A few blocks away, the University of Colorado Denver also has a campus food pantry. It opened about a year ago.

“About 900 students have used our food pantry for a total of 1500 times in the time we’ve been open,” explained Wesley Exum, and undergraduate student who also helps run the pantry at the campus Wellness Center.

“There’s definitely a need,” he explained. “Being a student myself, I understand that I’m on a budget and when I’m tight on a budget I can come here and access it and get whatever I need.”

Both MSU and CU Denver said they work in partnership with Food Bank of the Rockies, which donates food to help fill their pantries.

Many other local colleges also manage a food bank on campus or create solutions to address student food insecurity.

CU Anschutz opened a campus food pantry last year.

Students can access the pantry, located inside the University Police station, 24 hours a day. So far, the pantry has helped about 30 people, with more than 60 visits. It relies on donations from food pantry “champions,” who sign up for a program to donate a tote-bag full of items each month, according to the program’s director.

The University of Colorado-Boulder works to connect students with food insecurities to various resources across campus, including emergency food boxes. A university spokesman said next month, the college plans to introduce a new meal swipe program that allows anyone with an active campus meal plan to donate a meal at one of the dining halls. A committee will review requests from students who wish to access the program.

Colorado State University offers several options for students experiencing food insecurity, including a mobile food pantry, a meal swipe program, and a new program called Ram Food Recovery.

A university spokesman said the recovery program connects students with leftover food from campus catered events. The goal is to support students experiencing food insecurity and reduce food waste.

The University of Denver runs a food pantry on campus, and a spokesman said the program was expanded within the past year to include community dinners. DU also has a meal swipe program, where some students can donate meals so other students can eat.

The Hope Center survey also found, among respondents:

  • 55% experienced housing insecurity in the previous year
  • 18% experienced homelessness in the previous year

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