College life is all about the eats (and education, of course). And while some students are worried about gaining the dreaded “freshman fifteen,” others don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
That’s why Bowie State University, the oldest historically Black college in Maryland, is opening a lounge-style food bank stocked with healthy eating options for students, free of charge.
The new Bowie State Nutrition Lounge is set to open this spring and will offer students a space to kick back and study while also providing access to healthy snacks and meals, according to a university news release. The space is an upgrade from the university’s previous, smaller food bank, thanks to a $10,000 grant from hunger relief initiative Food Lion Feeds.
“This gift from Food Lion Feeds, along with the ongoing partnership of Food Lion and Capital Area Food Bank, will make an incredible difference for our Bowie State students, who sometimes struggle to afford healthy food options,” said Brent Swinton, the school’s vice president of institutional advancement.
The pantry will include fresh produce each week, as well as non-perishable goods and personal care items including toothpaste, shampoo and feminine hygiene products. What’s more, the sprawling new space will have couches and tables for students looking to take a load off.
Located near the campus library and computer lab, Swinton told ABC News the lounge makes it easy for students to stop by to grab what they need, or simply hang out with their peers. He said the lounge-style atmosphere is aimed at reducing the stigma of utilizing food pantries.
A study published by the Hope Center for College Community and Justice at Temple University last year found that 45 percent of students at universities nationwide reported experiencing food insecurity and had gone hungry in the last 30 days. At its own campus, Bowie State officials said some students only have one meal per day.
Sadiyah Jenkins, a senior psychology major, was among those who attended the pantry’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday and said she plans to return once or twice a week to grab what she needs. The space currently is open for limited hours, but organizers hope to extend the hours of operations so that it’s open and ready for students all week.
“If I need more, I know I can always come back,” Jenkins told ABC News.
Watch more in the video below.