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WIU Quad Cities students hold food insecurity conference to combat hunger on campus

MOLINE Illinois-- A small storage room-turned- food pantry is helping feed students on the Western Illinois University Quad Cities campus.

"A lot of college sutdents live on frozen pizzas and ramen noodles that's not really nourishing food that's helping them be healthy in all aspects of their life," said student Dan Dankert.

The idea came from staff, and Dankert opened the food pantry last year after researching the needs of students.

"We've seen a lot of students that have need sand have come in to use the pantry," said Dankert.

In the fall of 2017, a  WIU survey  showed about a third of students on campus weren't getting enough to eat. Currently WIU has a little more than 1000 students attending classes.

To make sure students don't go hungry on other local campuses,  Dankert and Hal Dutmer of Americorps Vista volunteer, organized the 2nd annual informational "food insecurity conference" on Friday March 2nd.

"When people are food secure it's wen they have access to a variety of healthy foods that helps them lead to a healthy lifestyle," said Dankert.

The conference provided speakers from the Iowa State University Extension Outreach Local Foods Program coordinator, the Food Rescue Partnership, a Quad-Cities group that works to rescue food from becoming waste, and the River Bend Foodbank.

Dankert says Augustana and St. Ambrose are currently setting up a food pantry of their own or in the process, and Black Hawk College already provides one for their students.

"We wanted to make sure we could serve as a hub for that information and training. We've been helping those institutions build up their food pantry's," said Dankert.

The food pantry is available to all WIU students. Denkert says it helps relieve stress for college students facing difficult times as well as helping non-traditional students trying to make ends meet.

"We have quite  a few people who come in that are single parents or having to take care of multiple children while going to school while trying to go to work," said Dankert.

Dankert says the next step is hopefully teaming up with local food banks in the area and grow the food pantry.