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A Look At Food Insecurity For UNR Students

A row of canned food on a shelf.
Lucia Starbuck.
A row of cans for students at Pack Provisions, a campus food pantry at the University of Nevada, Reno

Due to rising rents and tuition costs, there is an increasing need for easier access to affordable food and other daily necessities for students at the University of Nevada, Reno. Student contributor Lucia Starbuck explores a resource on campus called Pack Provisions that provided food or clothing to more than 600 visitors during the fall semester.


The window leading into the Pack Provisions pantry is bordered with green and red tinsel. A smiling volunteer is ready to help.

A young woman stands in front of an open freezer.
Credit Lucia Starbuck
Pack Provisions Student Coordinator Karissa Mendaros gives a tour of the kitchen onsite that has big coolers with frozen food free for students.

Student Coordinator, Karissa Mendaros, gives a tour of what Pack Provisions has to offer, which is more than just food.  

In the closet there are shirts on mismatched hangers and stacked tupperware. The pantry is lined with canned and boxed food, and a big bag of onions. They also have a microwave onsite and tall coolers holding frozen foods.

Mendaros is a senior in nutritional science and chemistry. Her goal is to break the stigma surrounding asking for help.

“We have people who would come in and be like, 'Oh, I don't think I should get this; I feel like more people deserve it.' But you need it so you should get it," she says. "Right now, I don't have a limit on things that people can get,” Mendaros said.

In 2016, Pack Provisions conducted a study and found that one in five students at UNR is food insecure.

“I am definitely one of those college students that is facing a little bit of food insecurity,” Vera Miller said.

Credit Lucia Starbuck
Vera Miller says Pack Provisions has helped her with accessing food during her studies.

Miller, a 23-year-old photography and videography major, believes Pack Provisions is essential. She has a campus library job, but she says it’s not enough to cover all of her needs.

“I am currently living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Miller explained.

She used Pack Provisions for the first time this fall and was surprised by the variety of options.

“We've got Annie's Mac and Cheese, which is really cool, but they also sometimes have fresh produce, they sometimes have orders of Burger King, which is super nice. Fast food is pretty cool sometimes,” Miller said.

Other students at UNR feel less inclined to ask for help. James Long, a senior psychology major, said he wouldn’t use Pack Provisions. He is currently unable to afford stable housing but feels apprehensive to go to the free pantry.

“It’s just a social anxiety thing, I think. There's a long interaction process of walking up to a window, filling out a form,” Long explained.

For Long and others, it can be challenging asking for help.

Credit Lucia Starbuck
James Long says it can be difficult for students in need to ask for food.

“I think most people to one degree or another don't like admitting when they need help," Long said. "You know, it’s sort of a path of last resort; and that's not just about food, that's about anything. But food would definitely be a big one because that implies that you're on particularly hard times."

With so many students experiencing food insecurity, Karissa Mendaros, the student coordinator we heard from earlier, is tired of seeing her peers eating Ramen and wants them to have access to proper nutrition, even when they can’t afford it.

“We understand that it's getting harder. I mean, at the beginning of the semester, tuition is due already, books are much more expensive," she said.

Mendaros and her peers are in college to change the world, but she said that can be hard when students themselves are struggling.

Lucia Starbuck is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism. This story was originally produced by the Reynolds Media Lab.



Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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