College students, even some with meal plans, are going hungry. One survey showed nearly half of students had faced food insecurity: an extremely unsettling state of affairs being that college tuitions themselves are already so expensive. Even an expensive private school like George Washington University – regularly ranked as one of the 50 most expensive schools in the US – last month announced it had decided to add a food pantry. But a student at Alabama A&M University decided not to wait for his school to take action, instead single-handedly starting a small food pantry for his classmates right in his dorm.
According to ABC News, Justin Franks, a 20-year-old at A&M, noticed last month that “a group of students had always been going to bed hungry.” Turns out the cafeteria at the Alabama school closes at the inconveniently early hour of 6pm. “A lot of students are busy and might not have time to get to the cafeteria before it closes, but it's important they still get to eat,” Franks was quoted as saying.
Starting with just $40 out of his own pocket, Franks launched the “pantry” by simply offering free instant noodles and Capri Sun. After a post on Facebook led others to catch wind of his actions, a wider variety of options began coming in. “We started getting donations from so many people: sororities, alumni and others in the community,” he said.
His initially small project now fills an old mail room in his dorm, offering not just food and beverages, but also personal hygiene products. And sticking with his original vision, he’s open from 6pm to 11pm to accommodate those who may have missed cafeteria hours. “’Service Is Sovereignty’ is our school's motto and I want to live up to that,” Franks told ABC News. “I'm hoping that we can keep expanding the pantry and that it'll continue for years to come.”
It’s a touching sentiment, though it’d probably be even better if a few years down the road colleges could figure out how to keep their students from being food insecure in the first place. But for the time being, thankfully caring students like Franks are there to help out.