Southeast Tech creating mobile food pantry program for students

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - It's a well-known stereo type - the struggling college student.
But a recent study conducted by Temple University shows hunger is actually a problem for students.

The study surveyed 43,000 students from 66 colleges across the country.
It found that 42% of community college students and 36% of university students do not get enough to eat.

The study did not survey students in South Dakota or the Midwest, but campus leadership at Southeast Technical Institute says food insecurity is an issue facing local students and they are hoping to implement a solution to take a bite out of hunger.

The starving student stereotype is no joke for many struggling to find their next meal.

“No, I don't think people should have to live that way,” freshman Sammy Learn said.

Learn is part of Southeast Tech's student government association.
It's her first year out of high school and she says the struggle is real.

“Move out on your own and you realize how expensive the adult world really is,” she said.

The current SGA president says juggling work and school is an issue many students face and making ends meet can be difficult.

“Stress of school, stress of paying some bills, and things like that doesn't leave a lot for the basic necessities for life,” Bubba Ridings said.

STI doesn't know exactly how many students deal with food insecurity, but 40% currently use a Pell grant to pay for tuition.

“We really found out that there is a pretty good need on pretty much our campus,” Ridings said.

That’s why the school has partnered with Feeding South Dakota to start a program to bring a mobile food pantry to campus.

“We could just bring it here once a month,” Ridings said.

Feeding South Dakota’s Executive Director Matt Gassen says this issue isn't new to the state.
The organization distributes food to thousands of people every year.

“It's touching over 150,000 South Dakotans each and every year…The need is there. It's real,” Gassen said.

Staff at Southeast Tech hope this mobile food pantry can offer students a solution.

“They can really focus on why they are here, being successful in school, getting their grades, getting to see that end graduation, and ultimately getting a job,” student success advisor Chelsea Reisch said.

Southeast Tech hopes the mobile food pantry could be up and running by this coming September.

Other colleges are helping hungry South Dakota students as well.
Gassen says Western Dakota Tech has a small pantry for students on campus.