ST. CLOUD -- Between paying for tuition and rent many college students are struggling to have enough money for food.

A survey was done last year at St. Cloud State University on student hunger, the University of Minnesota's College Student Health Survey, shows a portion of students worry about having enough money to eat.

The survey found more than 1 in 4 St. Cloud State students claim they worry about running out of food and not having enough funds to buy more groceries. This is equal to about 30 percent of students. Also, 1 in 5 students reported experiencing a food shortage and not having the money to buy more within the last 12 months.

To help fight against student hunger on the campus, the university has created a Students in Poverty Work Group to create programs and other initiatives. Special Advisor to the President, Judith Siminoe, is one the group's leaders. Siminoe says food and housing insecurity has been an issue nationally on several campuses and creating this work-group was a way for SCSU to evaluate their own campus needs.

"There have been different various types of initiatives on different campuses to try to assist students. We hadn't actually looked specifically on our campus to find out whether there were needs or if we had resources that we could try to make available to students."

One the main initiatives the group has been able to organize is the "Bridge to Community Resources" program. Siminoe says the program is primarily student-run.

"One of the ways we've provided additional assistance to students is to establish this program. Social work students are supervised by a staff member and they are providing local referral to services."

Sheila Moriarty is one of the staff leaders for the program. She says through the Bridge to Community Resources program students use a tool called "Bridges to Benefits."

"Bridges to Benefits is this really neat website that was put together by the Children's Defense Fund. Finding resources is hard, what Bridges to Benefits does is it's an easy to use a tool on a website, where you plug in some information and you find out your eligibility in 10 resource areas."

Moriarty says the benefits go beyond food assistance.

"Anywhere from medical assistance to food resources to childcare assistance to energy assistance, it's a number of different areas. Not only does it let you know that you are eligible but it immediately connects you with the forms you would need to fill out and people you would need to talk to in your local area."

If a student would like another option, St. Cloud State also has a case worker that has an office on campus, Tanya Meers, Meers also helps connect students to resources.

Since the St. Cloud metro-area is divided into three counties, Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties, Siminoe says in the past it has been challenging for students to get county assistance. She says since the opening of the Community Outpost (COP) House on campus this has changed.

"Unrelated to us (the Students in Poverty Work Group) the counties that provide assistance to services like housing assistance, energy assistance, WIC and SNAP were able to arrange to have rotating office hours in the community area policing facility (COP House)."

Other than government services, food scholarships are also being offered. Director of Student Life, Wonda Overland says SCSU in partnership with Chartwells awarded 100 scholarships to students this school year, equaling over $32,000.

Also, students that fall into hard times can also apply for the Huskies Emergency Fund grant. The grant is designed to help students stay in school during an unforeseen financial crisis.

Moving forward, Siminoe says the work group would like to create an emergency services fund for the university, this would be unrelated to the current grant.

"We are in the background continuing to plan how we are going to generate some money to put into this fund and make it available to students in the future."

If the fund is finalized it would help the students that didn't qualify to receive the grant money but are also in need of assistance.

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