EWU addresses food insecurity with new pantries


Jeremy Burnham for The Easterner

By Jeremy Burnham, Copy Editor

According to a 2016 survey conducted at EWU by the Department of Health and Wellness, more than a third of students at EWU face food insecurity.

A survey of 900 EWU students indicates that 36 percent of students have worried about their food running out before they received money to purchase more. About a third of those surveyed have actually experienced running out of food. This means about 4,200 students on campus face food insecurity.

“Food insecurity here at Eastern is higher than the national average,” said EWU Director of Community Engagement Brian Davenport. “This isn’t just a problem, it’s a big problem.”

Davenport joined forces with others who were already working on the issue, including Pride Center Director Nick Franco and Women’s Studies Center Manager Lisa Logan.

“The Office of Community Engagement did not start these efforts,” said Davenport. “We were invited to join them.”

The Pride Center and Women’s Studies Center have each started micro food pantries on campus, while an effort for a campus-wide pantry program is underway.

Davenport says that his office’s relationship with Second Harvest and other nonprofits made it the natural home of the pantry. Davenport said that there will be six pantries across campus to begin with. These pantries will open on April 24. In the future, Davenport would like to add a facility with a refrigerator to allow fresh food to be handed out.

Helping with the effort is AmeriCorps VISTA Kayla Martinez, who is assigned to Davenport’s department. Martinez, who is volunteering at EWU for a year, said that destigmatizing food insecurity is an important step to solving the problem because some students are embarrassed that they need help.

One resource Martinez tells students about is the book, “Good and Cheap,” by Leanne Brown. Brown’s book is full of recipes that cost less than four dollars a serving. Brown has made the book available for free in PDF form on her website, LeanneBrown.com. It is available in English and Spanish.

Leanne Brown poses with her cookbook “Good and Cheap.” Brown’s book is full of recipes that cost less than $4 a serving,and is available to download for free on her website | Photo courtesy of Seth Wenig/Associated Press

“Good and Cheap” started as Brown’s capstone project at New York University. When she saw estimates on the number of Americans living on food stamps, she thought her book could help people.

“Forty-four million people are on food stamps in the U.S.,” Brown said in a telephone interview with The Easterner. “I’m from Canada, and the total population of Canada is around 35 million. So when I saw that 44 million number, I thought to myself, ‘wow, this is like all of Canada, plus nine million people who are hungry.’ I thought this book was something I could do. I could make recipes for people who don’t have a lot of money. I thought it could be useful.”

“Good and Cheap” has been downloaded over one million times according to Brown’s website.

“I always wanted it to be available for free,” said Brown. “It’s for people who have hardly enough money to eat. I don’t want them to have to pay for a book. That doesn’t make sense.”