As president and CEO of University Credit Union, I want to express appreciation for the March 25 op-ed by professor Michael Hillard and Preble Street Executive Director Mark R. Swann, “Maine Voices: College students need to fill their stomachs to fuel their brains,” as well as for the University of Southern Maine hosting the 2019 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit last month.

When UCU started the Ending Hunger on Campus campaign two years ago, our goal was to bring attention to student food insecurity on campuses. In doing so, we also sought to raise financial support for the University of Maine System campus food pantries, which depend entirely on donations and volunteered time. Campus food pantries have proven to be an effective stopgap measure; collectively, University of Maine System pantries self-report serving, on average, more than 200 individuals per week.

Stereotypes make it easy to dismiss the idea of college students in critical need, but to do so is to ignore the reality of what higher education looks like today. Increasingly, first-generation and non-traditional students with families make up our student bodies, and the reality that food insecurity affects many students of all backgrounds on a regular basis often goes unrecognized. This is why awareness is so important, and why I’m encouraged by the discussion forming on this issue.

Indeed, long-term solutions are needed, but in the meantime, we can all do our part to recognize the urgency of student hunger, and to give campus food pantries the support they deserve.

Matthew Walsh

University Credit Union

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