A grumbling stomach in the middle of class is something we’ve most likely all experienced. But what if you weren’t able to grab that filling burrito or roll of sushi after class? What if the hunger was persistent, and your next meal uncertain? For about one in five students, that food insecurity is a reality.

A study commissioned by the California State University’s Chancellor’s Office released earlier this year found that campus staff estimated food insecure students at 21% across the CSU system.

However, the actual number of students who experience food insecurity is largely undocumented due to the stigma surrounding the issue. Someone facing food insecurity very well may be the classmate sitting next to you for two hours every Monday and Wednesday for an entire semester.

The CSU has committed to tackling the issue of food and housing insecurity through research and collaborations through efforts such as last month’s Food and Housing Security Conference. Here in Chico, staff and students understand the significance of hunger on campus, and have sought out solutions.

The Hungry Wildcat Food (HWF) Pantry, founded by Student Affairs staff member Kathleen Moroney, has bloomed into a viable resource for students facing food insecurity at Chico State.

Founder of the Chico State Wildcat Food Pantry, Kathleen Moroney, organizes food in the temporary location for the Wildcat Food Pantry in the Student Health Center on Tuesday, July 6, 2016 (Jessica Bartlett/Student Photographer)

Founder of the Chico State Wildcat Food Pantry Kathleen Moroney organizes food in the temporary location for the Wildcat Food Pantry in the Student Health Center.

“I began the program about 3 years ago after receiving a call from a faculty member asking where the food pantry was on campus. They had a student in class who was suffering from lack of food,” said Moroney. “I found out we didn’t have one and set about establishing one.”

Joe Picard from The Veggie Bucks Program, part of the University’s Organic Vegetable Project, and Jenny Breed, CalFresh Outreach Director for the Center for Healthy Communities, reached out to Moroney to collaborate, and together, they formed the Chico State Food Security Project.

“The project is a collaborative effort of campus-based programs whose goal is to improve student success through the provision of nutritious food, meals, government-funded food benefits, research-based education, and referral services for students experiencing food insecurity, hunger and poverty,” said Moroney.

Current programs and initiatives for the team include the HWF Pantry, CalFresh food program assistance, Organic Vegetable Project Veggie Buck Program, free meal vouchers, and research and education.

Interns operate the HWF Pantry and team up with CalFresh to help students sign up for federal food aid. After filling out a basic form, students can confidentially access the Pantry, and use the honor system to obtain the staple foods. They do not have to prove a need, and there are no restrictions on how many times students can access the Pantry or its services.

Last fall, HWF Pantry helped 600 students sign up with CalFresh, and fed approximately 400 mouths. This past 2015-2016 school year, those numbers nearly doubled, with over 1000 students signed up for Calfresh and significantly more students accessing the food pantry.

Cans fill the shelves in the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry. This pantry is part of the Chico State Food Security Project, which provides food and nutritional services to Chico State students who are experiencing food insecurity. One of the food storage locations, located in the Bell Memorial Union, is photographed on Thursday, July 7, 2016 (Jessica Bartlett/Student Photographer)

Cans fill the shelves of one of the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry’s storage areas. This pantry is part of the Chico State Food Security Project, which provides food and nutritional services to students experiencing food insecurity.

“All of our food has been donated by staff, faculty and students. In addition, we have established an ongoing relationship with the Chico Food Project, which has been instrumental in providing the pantry with a sustainable food source,” said Moroney.

The pantry has two locations for food disbursement during the school year, Kendall Hall, Room 110 and the Center for Healthy Communities at 25 Main St., Chico. During the summer (June 6–Aug. 1), students can access HWF Pantry food at Student Health Services.

Information on how to sign up for the service or donate to the pantry is available on the HWF Pantry website or by calling 530-898-6131.