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Kai Ryssdal: There’ve been some indicators this week that the Great Recession has changed way more things in this country than just the balances in our retirement accounts and how much Americans don’t trust Wall Street. We learned yesterday more than 40 million people in this country fall below the official poverty line. This economy has also brought with it a significant increase in demand at food banks around the country. So a new one opening up isn’t necessarily a surprise. Except that it’s on a college campus. Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah, to be specific.
From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.
Amy Scott: Enrollment is way up at Utah Valley University as people out of work head back to school. But tuition is up too. So the state school is teaming up with a local food bank to help students get by.
The university’s Mike Moon helped set up a campus branch.
Mike Moon: This food pantry is designed really to give them the opportunity to stay in school, and to increase our retention numbers.
Yes, colleges are opening food pantries at the same time they’re raising tuition. Many are the victims of state budget cuts. Private donations will stock the shelves at Utah Valley’s pantry. Student food banks have also opened at state schools in Michigan and Oregon in the past few years.
Margo Birkholz runs one at Metropolitan State College in Denver. It’s in its third year. She says almost 200 students came in last week — a record.
Margo Birkholz: We do have a few people that kind of sneak in. Our location is kind of off on its own. We’re in a pool hall, actually, the back of a pool hall. So we’re set up in a way that they can do it discretely.
A little assistance can make the difference in whether a student finishes college. Richard Kahlenberg studies educational equality at the Century Foundation.
Richard Kahlenberg: It’s not enough to simply admit low-income and working-class kids and then let them sink or swim. They need some special supports.
Kahlenberg says even Harvard helps outfit low-income students with winter coats. He says he hopes the food pantries will stay after the economy improves.
I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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