ACT Office, Office of Sustainability bring housing and food insecurity resources to campus

Quadajah Rivers, Reporter

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet some App State students can’t afford breakfast or any other meal to get through the day. 

On Feb. 26, Appalachian & the Community Together and the Office of Sustainability organized a resource fair for students struggling with food insecurity and housing. 

This fair was designed for those too afraid to confront someone about their food insecurity and housing problems and to inform students about resources. Hospitality House, Hunger and Health Coalition and case managers from the dean of students were there that day. 

Angela Eccles, an academic civic engagement graduate student, organized the event with her co-worker Rebecca Walton. She stressed always wanting to have an event offering students the best resources available in town. 

“We wanted to host an informal event where students can come by, have a brief conversation with local community partners and ASU organizations and groups,” Eccles said. 

Eccles said she understands that students run out of meal plan money near the end of the term and often ask to borrow money from a friend. 

According to Hunger and Health Coalition, in 2018, 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, meaning over 37 million Americans suffered from having little to no food.  

Terry Niederhammer, a programming coordinator of Hunger and Health Coalition, gives food to those in need. The Hunger and Health Coalition also collaborates with other entities to provide emergency assistance and offer long-term solutions to those individuals. 

“The Hunger and Health Coalition has been in existence since 1982. We are the oldest food pantry in the High Country and also the only free pharmacy,” Niederhammer said. “Our fresh market serves fresh produce, bakery items, and we have a pantry.”

Niederhammer said that every 14 days, an individual can come and get a box that consists of 35-45 pounds of non-perishable food. Students who run out of meal plan money can come by, sign up and leave with 65 pounds of food. 

“You can come back every seven days for local produce. We serve meat, eggs and milk as well,” Nierhammer said. 

Amber Olesen and Amy Butler are assistant contract managers from the Northwestern Regional Housing Authority. They provide rental assistance to individuals in need, particularly families. 

“Every family involved pays 30% of their monthly adjusted income towards rent and utilities, then we subsidize,” Butler said. 

Many of those who suffer from food insecurity have trouble paying frequent housing bills. Rachel Van Camp and Jonathan Perry are staff attorneys in Boone. They see the hardship off-campus students face with housing. 

“We do various things related to housing issues. We assist local people with local issues such as evictions, issues with landlords, making sure people have suitable housing,” Van Camp said. 

Van Camp and Perry said some students are taken advantage of by landlords. 

“Under the general statutes, the landlord has the duty under the law to keep the rental unit in a certain shape. We write demand letters to landlords and give them the chance to fix it,”  Perry said. “If they don’t, we litigate those kinds of cases.” 

Perry said it’s similar to an abusive relationship. The one being abused isn’t at fault because they called the police, they were beaten and the landlord tried to evict. 

“They can’t do that,” Perry said. “There are certain rights that we want students to know that they have, and if they encounter a situation where they feel like they are taken advantage of, they can eventually call us.” 

 Van Camp said she believes that the connection between affordable housing and food insecurity is evident within the college population. Van Camp and Perry had often had clients who come in with one issue and they find other corresponding insularity issues. 

When it comes to food insecurity, Van Camp and Perry assess those clients with food stamps.

“Once we get clients, we determine what other concerns might be having and we are usually able to help them with those,” Van Camp said. “And if not, we refer them to other agencies and organizations in the community that can help.”