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Portland State's food pantry helps students stave off hunger

The PSU Food Pantry serves 115 students a day, and benefits from donations made to the KGW Great Food Drive.

PORTLAND, Oregon — On a recent Monday morning, Portland State University students hurry through campus on their way to classes, lectures and labs. As they do, many are experiencing hunger while dealing with food insecurity.

"There's this narrative that it's just part of the college experience," said Trenna Wilson, the general manager of the PSU Food Pantry. "Eating ramen occasionally is something a lot of us have done to make ends meet, but skipping meals and being hungry and not having protein in your diet — all of those things are serious."

The PSU Food Pantry is located in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union and is open Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. 

Every day, staff members stock shelves and refrigerators with canned goods, specialty foods and produce, much of it fresh. Everything is free for PSU students who bring their student ID card. 

Wilson said on average, the food pantry serves 115 students a day who leave with around 10 pounds of food each.

"It's extraordinary. Just that sense that there's somebody there that cares matters so much," Wilson said. "Trying to make ends meet, especially with the cost of living in Portland, is hard."

Wilson is a student and a single mom out of the work force currently trying to finish her degree. There are days she visits the food pantry as a customer and said experiencing food insecurity looks many different ways for different people.

'It isn't just the person who's completely starving," Wilson said. "It's also the person who can't afford to eat healthy foods… or is skipping breakfast all the time to try to make ends meet. That’s food insecurity, too."

According to Wilson, a campus survey found that nearly half of students questioned said they had experienced some form of food insecurity the month before. Almost 9% said there were six days in an average month where they didn't eat at all.

"Those are very, very startling numbers," Wilson said.

Most of the food the PSU Food Pantry stocks comes from the Oregon Food Bank. The nonprofit collects and distributes food through a network of 21 regional food banks and more than 1,400 food assistance sites. 

The KGW Great Food Drive is raising cash and food donations to support the Oregon Food Bank.

"Thank you," Wilson said. "It's truly extraordinary what just a couple of dollars can do."


The KGW Great Food Drive is going on now. You can help us reach our goal of providing 1.2 million meals to families in need by donating here.


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