Redbirds frequently face issues with food insecurity, especially over long break periods when dining centers close.

With the help of the Food Insecurity Committee, the ISU Police Department, and the School Street Food Pantry, the Winter Break Grab and Go Food Bags program was born to help bring food to students that need it.

This past December, more than 2,000 food items were donated over three days, with Illinois State faculty and staff donating a large portion of the items. “The idea moved to action quickly, thanks to partnership with ISUPD and School Street Food Pantry,” said Associate Dean of Students Jill Benson, co-chair of the Food Insecurity Committee at Illinois State University.

“A scheduled University break is not a positive or relaxing time for all students.”

Gina Hunter, member of the Food Insecurity Committee

In coordination with the School Street Food Pantry and volunteers, the donations were received, bagged, and delivered to the ISU Police Department where they were available for students to pick up. The Committee reported that 37 bags were picked up from ISUPD between December 24 and January 3, with five additional bags provided to Housing for students who express need during the spring semester. Remaining food donations were transferred to the School Street Food Pantry to be distributed throughout the semester.

“It is important to understand that student experiences vary, and a scheduled University break is not a positive or relaxing time for all students,” said Gina Hunter, a member of the Food Insecurity Committee. “For some, it is a time when resources they count on for daily living are not available, and they may not have a permanent residence or one that is safe for them to return to. This is exacerbated by COVID-19 which has reduced opportunities for student employment, and complicated students’ housing and transportation arrangements.”

The committee had already begun meeting in the Fall 2020 semester when the idea for the Grab and Go program emerged, inspired by a similar program at Northern Illinois University. The committee is planning a systemic, long-term approach, but also wants to move ideas to action quickly, as food insecurity among students exists as a real daily problem for many Redbirds.

For more information, please contact Jill Benson at [email protected], or Joe Hendrix at [email protected]