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National pilot program addressing campus food insecurity includes Seattle Pacific University

In recent years, there’s been growing attention to the issue of food insecurity on college campuses, as more students from low-income backgrounds enroll. According to research, food insecurity is associated with lower grades, poorer health and conditions such as depression.

Seattle Pacific University, a Christian university based in the North Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, has been selected to take part in a pilot program to offer free meals to students in need.

The food services company Sodexo has chosen SPU and 12 other colleges and universities to take part in the pilot program. SPU applied for it because of concern on campus that some students are struggling to afford meals, said Kim Karstens, general manager of dining services at SPU.

“I’ve talked with students who have talked about financially it being tight for them,” Karstens said. “I’m a food service manager. We provide food to students, faculty, staff on campus and guests. So when you hear that they’re struggling financially – it’s what can we do to help them?”

Sodexo will donate two meals for every full-time meal plan sold on campus. That will yield about 1,200 donated meals for students during the winter and spring quarters, Karstens said.

The free meals will be loaded onto students’ identification cards and they can “come in like every other patron in our dining hall and have a meal,” Karstens said. “It’s unlimited dining once they’re in the dining hall. They can have as much food as they like.”

SPU is still figuring out how many students will request free meals. The university has more than 3,500 students.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.