With the cost of living, tuition and student loan debt, it's no surprise some students don't have the money for basic necessities. So the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has opened the Open Shelf pantry, offering everything from free canned food to cleaning supplies to hygiene products.
"In reality, this is a difficult issue, which is why this is not talked about much," said Pastor Adam White of the campus Lutheran Center, which partnered with the university on the project, open to any student regardless of income. "It was a surprise for us to have an opportunity to engage in an activity for justice and advocacy on campus."
Although Open Shelf is housed at the Lutheran Center, it is open to students of all faiths.
The university spent $5,000 to get it started and hopes donations from the community will keep it open. Hours are 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Mondays and 2-5 p.m. every Friday. Donations may be dropped off during the week from 8 to 5.
Coordinator and Americorps volunteer Megan Rudolph helped gather donations such as detergent, deodorant , toothpaste and feminine hygiene products along with canned goods. "I've had UNL faculty approach me and emailed and reached out and supported financially or materially."
"I think it's an awesome program started up," said sophomore Nate Stevens. "There are multiple students who are not in well-off situations."
The University of Nebraska-Kearney has a similar pantry that started last year. Monica Mueller with the Big Blue Cupboard says it is used daily and goes through about 1,000 products a semester.