The Office of Student Life has always provided many resources for students, ranging from fitness and recreation opportunities to housing advice. And now they’ve added another crucial resource during this pandemic: a virtual food pantry.

“The Office of Student Life actually started looking at food insecurity almost a year ago,” said Le’Keisha Johnson, director of the Office of Student Life. Well before COVID-19, the office had been researching the issue of food insecurity on the UT Health San Antonio campus, using anonymous surveys of students from all five schools to gather data, Johnson said.

Their findings suggested that there was a substantial need for food resources. Out of the 450 students who participated in the survey, nearly 30% indicated that they had been hungry, but chose not to eat due to lack of financial resources for food. About 40% of survey participants experienced a lack of proper food supply, and nearly 75% of survey participants reported knowing other students who had experienced an inadequate food supply at least once in a semester.

And then the pandemic hit. Students or their spouses or family members lost jobs, and the need for food resources became even greater.

“Once COVID-19 occurred, the institution really wanted some more resources for students who are experiencing food insecurity,” Johnson said. “Our goal was to have a physical food pantry on our campus, which is why we were pursuing the data in the first place. So of course, in the middle of all that research COVID-19 occurred and that derailed focusing on it as a physical location and we moved it more to a virtual option.”

The virtual food pantry can be found on the Office of Student Life website. A comprehensive list of food banks and other organizations around San Antonio shows students what their options are if they are experiencing food insecurity. Some of these organizations even offer no-contact, drive-up options. Students need only bring some form of identification with them to obtain food, said Ben Rivers, associate director of student activities, who researched the city’s food resources and compiled the list.

Further initiatives for additional food resources for students are in the works with the Office of Student Life and the Student Government Association, which they plan to launch this summer.