For about 15 years, St. Pauls Catholic Student Center at Boise State has served a meal after Mass to anyone from campus who needed one.
The service started in the St. Pauls basement with a pot of beans and a loaf of bread. Its a bigger production now: three fresh-baked loaves and two pots of soup one meat, one vegetarian.
Weve worn out quite a few bread makers, said Teresa DeVino, assistant to the campus ministry at the Diocese of Boise.
Beginning Tuesday, St. Pauls will be offering more help to hungry students.
An on-site food pantry called The Horses Bit will be open twice a week to anyone who shows a BSU ID. People in need will be able to pick up supplies to fix their own meals.
The name stands for a bit of help, a bit of hope, a bit of food, said DeVino. If we can do anything to make it easier for students to stay in school, we will.
The pantry is a collaboration of several campus and community groups, including Crosswalks Campus Ministry, St. Vincent de Paul and food banks in Boise and Meridian. Even the Church of the Nazarene in Filer is gathering food donations for the project, said Ben Moore of Crosswalks.
The food pantry is a response to a growing need among students who are struggling to pay their bills and in many cases, their parents are as well.
DeVino recalls speaking to a student who told her that it was hard to pay attention in class when my stomach is growling louder than the professor.
Moore said his group began assembling crisis care kits with toothbrushes and other small items for students who didnt have the money to buy them. He said he knows students who hang around the student union hoping someone will share some extra fries.
CONNECTING STUDENTS TO NEEDED RESOURCES
Student need goes beyond the anecdotal.
Student fees have increased steadily more than doubling at Boise State since 2000. As the cost of getting a college education has risen, so has the number of students needing help.
Between 2008 and 2012, the number of low-income BSU students qualifying for federal need-based Pell Grants grew from 5,380 to 8,567 a number that has significantly outpaced the increase in undergraduate students over the same time frame, said Diana Fairchild, interim director of financial aid and scholarships.
The university hired Lauren Oe, a licensed social worker, to be student support case manager in February. Her job is helping students in distress find resources on campus and beyond.
Students have to juggle school and work, and sometimes have to take care of children of their own.
Students come to campus with real-life issues, Oe said.
SHORT TERM VS. LONG TERM
Like DeVino, part of Oes mission is keeping students in school. Dropping out and going to work might solve the immediate problem of putting food on the table, but its short-sighted, she said.
People in general go to college to better their lives and have a better life for their families. Being more employable is the longer goal, said Oe.
The food pantry project will benefit students in another way, she said. Its a chance for some to give back to the community.
Student organizations will provide the volunteers to staff the pantry. On-campus food drives have already begun to stock the shelves. Organizers were spreading the word about the pantry during homecoming weekend, Moore said.
Boise State isnt the first campus to start a food pantry. One of the first opened at Michigan State in the 1990s. The University of California, Davis, started one in 2010, and the University of Arkansas last year.
Anna Webb: 377-6431