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A student leadership group was formed with

members trained to do one-on-one intentional conversations with fellow students who are in economic crises. In addition to advocacy work, Agape House has a

community garden. The produce is used for Agape House’s weekly dinners and helps students learn about community and food access. “There is a dominant narrative that causes us

to believe that students are supposed to be ‘poor,’ but we don’t imagine this poverty should include homelessness and extreme hunger and under- nourishment,” said Patricia Ruiz, a former student leader with Agape House who now serves as campus ministry assistant. “Our bottom line places value on building relationships, transformative conversations, social justice and sharing the love of Christ.” Ruiz was accepted by the university’s Masters of

Social Work program and plans to attend, but said financial resources are causing an obstacle. “So the cycle continues,” she added.

Cross-country concern Agape House isn’t the only campus ministry deal- ing with student economic challenges. Halfway across the country, The Lutheran Center, the campus ministry at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, opened a food and hygiene pantry after hearing from Student Affairs that some students couldn’t afford toiletries—or food. OpeN Shelf opened August 2013 and has since served several hundred students. “We’ve had a long-standing tradition of serving

a weekly free meal at The Lutheran Center, so this was a natural extension of our ministry,” said Adam White, campus pastor. “Student economic issues aren’t new, but looking at rising tuition fees and housing costs on campus, we are moving into a crisis in student poverty. I don’t think people take student poverty seriously because college is supposed to be an island of privilege.” The student-run pantry originally focused on

toiletries but has expanded to food. “We want to have 20 to 30 items we stock continually, and we’re creating a cookbook to show students how to leverage those items and have well-balanced meals,” White said. Megan Rudolph, a senior from Lincoln who

served as OpeN Shelf’s first coordinator, said the pantry’s placement on campus has no bearing on who is served. “We believe in loving and serving our

neighbors,” she said. “Even though we are a religious community, we strive to cater to all or no religious backgrounds. So far, being in The Lutheran Center hasn’t appeared to hamper

Three years ago, OpeN Shelf, a hygiene and food pantry for students, opened at The Lutheran Center, the Lutheran campus ministry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The pantry, run by students like Jenna Olson, was an outgrowth of a weekly free meal the campus ministry has hosted for many years.


students coming to get the products they need.” Donations for OpeN Shelf come from several

sources. “By talking with organizations and local congregations, we have the opportunity to narrate real issues of student poverty and raise awareness of how this actually looks,” White said.

Cost of hunger Tyson House, the Lutheran-Episcopal campus ministry at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, opened Smokey’s Pantry at the beginning of this year to provide food and basic necessities to address the growing needs of students. “Student poverty is hidden until you start to

address it, and then you learn there’s a lot,” said John Tirro, campus minister. “There are single mothers, students from low-income families, students cut off from family support after coming out as transgender or athletes needing to build muscle who sell plasma for groceries.” Tirro said Tyson House’s communities, both

within the university and locally, have been supportive of the campus ministry’s efforts to provide for students who are struggling financially. “It’s an honorable and courageous thing to work

toward your education and take care of yourself as you do so,” Tirro said. “If you’re at the university, you are automatically contributing to society by getting an education and developing your ability to serve. Our community sees that and is pouring out

Photo courtesy of The Lutheran Center

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