“It’s not just low-income students,” says Taylor.
“College is a life lesson, where many students are learning for the first time about budgeting. Sometimes they just find themselves in a pickle. Usually it’s over the summer and in gap times, when it’s close to the end of term, and their financial aid refunds have run out, and they’re paying higher rent than they can really afford.”
Although there are ample resources on Grounds that students can access for help, Taylor, her colleague Irene Paschall, and others had found themselves retrieving snacks from their cubicles or running across the street to McDonald’s to feed a hungry student. It happened often enough that Taylor and Paschall banded together with their colleagues to establish their own little food pantry for students in need. All of the items in the food pantry are donated.
The SFS staff has developed keen instincts for spotting students in trouble, and they don’t hesitate to ask gentle questions that might reveal food insecurity, and to answer the need with peanut butter, crackers, soup, and other items they have in their stock.
Due to a number of reasons – the possible stigma of walking into a food bank on Grounds, the absence of affiliation with a church, or even lack of transportation to local food pantries – Taylor says some students feel more comfortable talking about the issue with SFS staff, with whom they often have an established relationship.
Paschall explains that it’s all in the conversation: “We’re the money people. They’re coming to us to ask for an emergency loan because maybe they’re having trouble paying their rent. Then you ask them if they have money for food, and when is the last time they ate.”
Paschall says students sometimes try to downplay their need, but that SFS staff often counter their protests by reminding them that it’s their job as a student to function, and they can’t do that without eating.
A hug is often part of the transaction, and a request for the student to come back and let the staff know how they’re doing.
“We want to help them and get them to the finish line,” Paschall says.
“It’s our privilege to get to see them grow into adults and do great things in the world.”
Taylor agrees: “We’re Student Financial Services,” she says.
“Without the students, we wouldn’t be here – we are happy to help them however we can.”
Resources for food insecurity on Grounds:
If you’d like to donate non-perishable food items to the SFS food pantry, feel free to drop them by the cashier’s window in SFS.
Shout out to the Shout Out board: We only knew about this story because Trudy and Irene’s colleague Nick Williams recognized them on the shout out board – kudos to all of you UVAFinance folks who recognize good work AND provide us with great, inspiring stories!