In 2017-2018 research was conducted on the campus of Southern Utah University that yielded some upsetting results. In the research, 49% of students indicated they experienced some degree of food insecurity with either inadequate or nutrition at some time during the school year.

From that research, the Hope (Helping Our People Eat) Pantry came in to existence with the mission to provide essential food and toiletry items to students at both SUU and Southwest Technical College.

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The Community Engagement Center at SUU is the organization that operates the Hope Pantry. Pam Branin is the Director of the CEC and was on the radio to explain the program and the operation of the pantry.

SUU Media Relations
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“Our goal is kind of a two fold goal, to provide food to meet immediate need, but we also provide education to try to help students develop the skills so that they are more savvy shoppers,” Branin told us. That education includes knowing how to budget for food and how to prepare food that is “inexpensive but still adequate nutritionally.

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The Hope Pantry is one of the first campus based pantries in Utah and one of the first in the nation, and has been in operation since the spring of 2020. And pantries wasn't an error. Hope Pantry has locations at SUU and at Southwest Tech.

In the 2022-2023 school year, pantry use increase 77% over the prior year. In a typical week, Hope Pantry serves 190 to 250 students. Each student served receives $40 to $50 worth of food and supplies.

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Along with providing food items and essentials along with budgeting and preparation skills, the pantry also works to raise awareness of food insecurity and food waste, and encourages student engagement in learning and service opportunities to address these issues on our campus and in our community.

Branin told us there is a significant difference in the use of the pantry locations saying, “the Hope Pantry on campus (SUU) has 1,200 to 1,400 uses per month and the maybe 25, 27 uses per month.” Some of the difference between the two locations is that many of the Southwest Tech students are adults and may have access to other resources.

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The Hope Pantry is happy to accept donations from the community. Non-perishable food items that are ready to eat along with toiletry items are in constant need. You can find out more about the scope and the mission of the Hope Pantry by clicking this link

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You can listen to our visit with Pam Branin below. Another program that the Community Engagement Center is conducting is the Iron County Holiday Assistance Program and we will feature that in a future article.

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Gallery Credit: Cooper Fox (B98.5) and Cameron (The Breeze 103.9)