UCU shines light on food insecurity on Maine campuses

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Thrifty Beaver Co-op at the University of Maine at Farmington receives a $500 kickoff donation from the University Credit Union. Pictured, from left, are UMF students, Alexis Saulnier, Kaeley Stewart, Kaylee Bilodeau; Beth Beaudoin, UCU Farmington Branch Manager; and Luke Kellett, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Sustainability Coordinator, UMF  (Courtesy Photo)

FARMINGTON — The Thrifty Beaver Co-op at the University of Maine at Farmington is one of five campus food pantries to receive funding through a University Credit Union campaign.

Through the month of December, University Credit Union (UCU) is shining a light on food insecurity on Maine campuses and rallying support for the five University of Maine System campus food pantries as they approach their busy winter season.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine ranks 1st in New England for food insecurity and 7th in the nation overall. Consequentially, college students in Maine are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and its negative impact on academic achievement.

Feeding America, a national network of food banks which studies food insecurity, found that 49.3 percent of its clients in college reported having to choose between food and educational expenses (e.g. books, tuition, rent). While the total need among all Maine students is not known, there are many who are already receiving assistance from these locations.

Through the generosity of its members and others, UCU aims to raise at least $7,500 in donated funds and food, and is kick-starting the campaign with a donation of $500 to each pantry: Thrifty Beaver Co-op at UMF assists 15 people per week; The Black Bear Exchange at the University of Maine in Orono assists 20 people per week; Bengal’s Outreach Food Pantry at the University of Maine at Fort Kent assists 25 people per month; Emergency Food Pantry at the University of Maine at Presque Isle opened in September 2017; and The Well at the University of Southern Maine assists 20 people per day.

Thrifty Beaver Co-op at the University of Maine at Farmington receives a $500 kickoff donation from the University Credit Union. Pictured, from left, are UMF students, Alexis Saulnier, Kaeley Stewart, Kaylee Bilodeau; Beth Beaudoin, UCU Farmington Branch Manager; and Luke Kellett, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Sustainability Coordinator, UMF  (Courtesy Photo)

“No student should ever be faced with choosing between food and their education,” said UCU President and CEO Matthew Walsh. “As the only financial institution in Maine chartered to serve the University of Maine System, we feel it’s our duty to do what we can to raise awareness of food insecurity among students and to help end hunger on campuses by ensuring these food pantries have the resources to continue to serve the many people who rely on them.”

Through the month of December, donations of non-perishable food items suitable for student living facilities (e.g. snacks, cereals, microwavable meals) will be collected at UCU locations across the state. Monetary donations can be made by calling 800-696-8628, by mail to UCU, or in-person at any UCU location. Donors may elect to specify a campus food pantry of their choosing; any donations not designated as such will be equally distributed to the five pantries.

For more information on the campaign and to learn more about the campus food pantries, please visit www.ucu.maine.edu/endinghungeroncampus.

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