FAFSA Question 58

    NEIU’s Student Pantry Opens

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    Robin Bridges

    The Food Pantry serves the needs of NEIU’s most vulnerable students, and provides for them a service living up to the school’s creed.

    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, asks a lot of questions about student demographics.

    Questions 51-58 of that form are the questions determining a student’s dependency status: Dependent or independent. It also determines a student’s homeless status also known as “unaccompanied homeless youth.”

    Question 58 most importantly reads, “Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by Director of Homeless Youth Center?” According to 2013 FASFA data homeless college students are numbered at around 46,000 nationwide. These students are insecure of resources. This means that they are unsure about where their next meal or other resources will come from. Resources include food, shower, place to sleep and study and so many more.

    The problem with this question is it mainly applies to those under 21. Many homeless college students go unreported or under reported. “We know our students don’t fall into the typical 18-24 demographic,” says director of the Student Advocacy department, Luvia Moreno. With such a wide variety of students, the department of Student Advocacy aims to meet a wide variety of needs.

    Last spring NEIU set up a new department concerning student affairs, the Student Advocacy department. The NEIU student advocacy department began its first ever food drive. The food drive will supply a student pantry to service these and many other students.

    Although hunger and homelessness are primary concerns for the initiative, the needed resources go far beyond food. “It’s only natural and necessary that we open a food pantry for students,” said Moreno. Resources include things like shampoo, conditioner, soap, diapers, feminine hygiene and other basic needs.

    The NEIU mobile food pantry is the first program through the department that will focus completely on students who are either food or resource insecure. The program began collecting food for this mobile pantry at the beginning of April. Placing collection bins in different social centers around the school. The hope is that students will fill the bins with everything from canned food and boxed goods to shampoo and diapers.

    With the first wave of collection ending with the semester, “There’s always fear that no one will show up because they’re embarrassed, they don’t want anyone to know their situation” said Moreno, an NEIU alum.

    “I am prepared to face that students won’t show up. I’m hoping to change that stigma of hunger. Anyone can go through this at any point in their life. No matter how much education we receive, no matter how well off our family can be, who knows.”

    Once the donation period is complete to launch a website to let students and faculty know the hours the mobile food pantry will be open. They are borrowing a back conference room near the women’s resource and student rights and responsibility center of the B building. All in the hope to be able to help all of the students they can. The present goal is to not turn away anyone who asks for it.

    The long-term goal is to find not only a permanent space for the currently mobile pantry on the main campus but to eventually expand to the other NEIU campuses. Moreno has already received words of support from directors at the El Centro campus. So far the biggest items on their wish list are toiletries and diapers.

    Where can you drop off your donations?

    Student Leadership Development Office (Lower level of E building)

    The Angelina Pedroso Center (B-159)

    The Learning Support Center (4th Floor of the Library)

    The Project Success and Proyecto Pa’Lante Office (LWH 4029)

    The Student Disability Services Office (D-104)

    Student Affairs Office (3rd floor of C-building)