Back-to-school shoppers may want to throw a few extra school supplies in their cart this year to help Northern Arizona University students who are struggling to make ends meet.
For the first time, the Service Professional Advisory Council (SPAC) is collecting school supplies, clothing and food to help students. The food will go to Louie’s Cupboard, while the other items will be distributed by the Office of Student Affairs. People who want to participate can drop off items in Human Resources (building 91).
An increasing number of colleges and universities throughout the nation have students who don’t have enough money to provide for their basic needs. According to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness October 2016 report, Hunger on Campus: The Challenge of Food Insecurity for College Students, close to half of the responding students reported experiencing food insecurity in the last month.
At NAU, 354 students have used Louie’s Cupboard in the last two years, while 390 students have used the Emergency Textbook Loan (ETL) program.
“Over the years, both services have seen an increase in student usage,” said Wendy Bruun, executive director of student affairs. “Due to limited funds, the ETL program has had to limit how much it help students in order to help more students each semester. Having access to textbooks is important for student success, and the high cost of books can be a barrier for some students.”
Food insecurity, which is not having reliable access to enough affordable and healthy food, is more prevalent in students of color and first-generation students. Many affected students have jobs and have received financial aid. Although students reported the financial strain directly affected their education— the report showed 55 percent reported they did not buy a required textbook because of cost—students reported missing or dropping classes, missing study sessions and opting out of extracurricular activities.
SPAC chairwoman Cassie Petit said the council chose this service project this year because, although SPAC does several service projects for the community, like adopting a section of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System, they wanted to take on a cause that directly benefited NAU students.
“Our core mission at NAU is student success, and we have more than 850 service professionals whose work contributes to this mission,” she said. “The council felt this project was important because it is another way that we can support students and make a difference here on campus.”
The Service Professional Advisory Council is the officially recognized organization to represent service professionals on campus. In addition to advocating for service professionals, SPAC also provides a forum for support and various service opportunities throughout the year. All service professionals may attend the monthly meeting at 8:30 a.m. the third Thursday of every month during the academic year. The meetings are in various buildings throughout campus; check the website for information.