Henley Castleman & Tre’Kwan Raynor

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — It might be surprising to learn, but there are a number of students at Winthrop University who struggle with food insecurity.

For a number of reasons, students are not able to eat as much or as healthy as they would like, because they cannot afford to buy food.

Miranda Knight, the assistant dean of students, said she deals with this challenge on a daily basis.

“I don’t think it’s extreme on campus, but that is a really hard question to answer because it’s really hard to get (specific) numbers,” said Knight.

“Students have to have a meal plan when they live on campus, so we know they’re not starving,” she said. “When you don’t have that meal plan, there is not guaranteed food.”

It’s not uncommon to see students at campus dining facilities asking other students to pay for their meals by swiping their student ID.

“My friends ask me for meal swipes all of the time and I have no choice but to give it to them because I don’t want to see them go hungry,” said Destini Pringle, a Winthrop junior.

“People ask me for meal swipes every day, mostly because they do not have the money,” said Darius Miles, a Winthrop sophomore.

“Most of the time they are juniors that recently moved off campus. It’s hard to keep buying meals throughout the day, especially if you don’t cook,” said Miles. “I gave out two (meals) today.”

Knight said it’s difficult to identify students who struggle with food insecurity, because they’re either unaware there are resources available for them or they simply may not want to ask for help.

“We’ve got a couple of different ways that we can help students that are food insecure. I can help with emergency food. If students come to our office, the dean of student’s office or even over at student activities, we’ve got a small emergency stash of food,” she said.

However, the university does not maintain a food pantry, so the small supply of food, according to Knight, is only a short-term solution.

“We have got to talk about sustainability. Like what are you going to do tomorrow, and next week and the week after? I’m going to get you fed first and then we’ll talk,” she said. “What’s going on? Do you have a meal plan? Are you using your plan? Sometimes there is more that we need to discuss.”

Knight said the university works with Project Hope, a nonprofit crisis assistance ministry located in Rock Hill that maintains a food pantry, in order to help students struggling with food insecurity long-term.

“Students need to help identify student problems,” Knight said.

“If you know people, be supportive so that they’re not embarrassed. Send them to us or send them to Project Hope,” she said. “If you don’t have food, you likely don’t have other things.”