A recent student survey found a third of students at MSU-Billings have reported not having enough food for themselves or their household. And this food insecurity can stand in the way of students achieving a college degree.
The recent students needs assessment conducted by MSUB found a quarter of the students polled reported having skipped a meal because of the lack of food, while 34 percent reported there has been a time when they did not have enough food for themselves or their household.
Student Engagement Dean Kathy Kotechi says these are barriers to students staying in school.
"Food insecurity is a significant challenge for many students, and being a basic need and if students don’t have that, it becomes a challenge for them to be successful in the classroom," Kotechi says.
To meet these basic needs, MSUB created the Yellowstone Emergency Pantry, both on the main campus and at City College. The pantry is stocked with canned meats, vegetables, soups and pastas as well as hygiene products.
And there’s other help, says office of Campus Activities and Engagement Director Kristen Peterman.
"When students come in and fill out their forms to use the emergency pantry we also provide other resources for them to help them so they know we are here to provide support for them and there’s also other things they can do."
And Kathy Kotechi says money from a new state grant is also providing support.
"Whether that's assisting with book needs, or they have a car breakdown and they need assistance, because again, all of those things factor in their ability to get to MSU-Billings, to our campus, and to be successful in and out of the classroom."
Those connected to the pantry praise the campus community, and the community-at-large for their generosity in donating funds and items.
And the pantry is $8,000 richer thanks to a recent donation from the Yellowstone Rim Runners from their Run Turkey Run on Thanksgiving Day.
Kotecki says it’s all about supporting the students.
"What seem minor are big barriers for students when we look at retention data and why student drop out."
Other Montana campuses are joining the effort to provide for these basic needs.
Montana State University in October started Bounty of the Bridgers, a pop-up food pantry in partnership with the Gallatin County Food Bank. And the University of Montana is investigating opening a food pantry in the Student Union, possibly in the fall.