OGDEN (ABC4 News) – Approximately half of college students will struggle with food insecurity at least once while in school, according to experts. Weber State University aims to reduce that number through the expansion of their on-campus food pantry and implementation of outreach programs.

Dereck Gross, a student at Weber State University, occasionally visits the Weber Cares Pantry. But before, he didn’t always know where his next meal was coming from.

“I came from a very low-end neighborhood where we struggled every day to see how we were going to put food on the table. We were making something out of scraps, just whatever we had in the pantry or whatever we had in the fridge,” he said.

That concern carried on with him as he began college two years ago.

“You’re putting extra stress on yourself, especially being a college student with classes and testing. You’re wondering where you’re going to get food. You’re not getting the nourishment you need to be prepared for exams or extra stress on your brain,” said Gross.

According to Anja Wutz, the AmeriCorp Vista food insecurity prevention specialist at Weber State University, the east-central Ogden area is particularly vulnerable to food insecurity because of intergenerational poverty. Food security, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

“People living in these areas are more prone to having jobs where you can’t really climb the ladder, so the chances of higher-earning potential are low,” said Wutz. “Poverty can be cyclical. Often times, children born into poverty who experience food insecurity can have a hard time getting out of that. It’s an intergenerational thing that we really want to break away from.”

Through the WSU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning, the Weber Cares Pantry allows students, faculty, and staff to fill up two bags of food and resources every week. Food in the pantry comes from donations including fresh produce from the Community Garden and extra food from Weber Dining Services through the Food Recovery Network.

“Our message to students who are food insecure…is that it’s not something to be embarrassed about. Most people have experienced it at some point. It’s a very common thing and so we really want to minimize the stigma and make everyone feel welcome if they are in need,” said Wutz.

During the next year, Wutz said her department plans on partnering with more organizations to provide cooking workshops and demos for those using the pantry to learn how to cook nutritional meals. They’ll also pursue additional outreach and workshops for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

If you would like to donate to the Weber Cares Pantry, click here.