A Durango nonprofit began work in January at Fort Lewis College to break the stereotype that students should exist on ramen noodles. Instead, the group is helping students enroll in federal assistance.
An employee with Manna soup kitchen began holding office hours at the college about three weeks ago to help students enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, to ensure students don’t have to live on the cheapest food available, said Marissa Hunt, Manna program service specialist.
“Students are expected to live on this ramen-diet lifestyle and try and make ends meet,” Hunt said.
But students forced to skip meals can have trouble sleeping, feel depressed and see their grades slip, she said. Federal benefits can help put locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables in students’ refrigerators, which can help them feel better and perform well in class, she said.
The Grub Hub in Jones Hall provides hot lunches every Tuesday to about 40 to 50 students, said Carolina Alonso, an assistant professor and adviser to the hub. The hub also serves 90 to 100 students on Thursdays when it provides bread, pastries and other free food, she said.
Alonso said she is happy to see Manna spreading awareness about federal benefits and helping students sign up because some students work two jobs in addition to taking classes and struggle to purchase quality food.
FLC senior Verlin “V.” Barney said navigating all aspects of college, including food budgets, can be tricky, especially for first-generation students like himself, because there is not a “manual on what to expect and how to be a great academic.”
“No one tells you how hungry you are going to be throughout the whole endeavor,” said Barney, who is the president of the Grub Hub.
In tough financial times, the Grub Hub has helped him with simple staples, such as a bag of beans, he said.
He also appreciates that Fort Lewis College promotes a culture of acceptance about food insecurity.
“It’s great that we can openly talk about such issues and not necessarily make it a bad thing,” he said.