As Americans cope with inflation, a campus service at Bowie State University is helping students stretch their dollars and get some peace of mind.
Bowie State is helping address the rising cost of food and supplies through its "nutrition lounge," a free-of-charge facility stocked with essentials from grab-and-go snacks and meal staples to household items and personal hygiene products.
The Maryland university opened the lounge in 2020 to help combat food insecurity on campus. It has morphed into a full-on pantry for students and staff.
Bowie State sophomore Luchas Wright, III is among the growing number of students who have come to rely on the lounge.
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"Everyone has to find a ways to a means, but it's a blessing to have opportunities like this at the college," Wright said. "The pressure just isn't there. It's like, 'alright, today I'm gonna get some food here.'"
Just as inflation costs have risen in recent months, the number of visitors to the nutrition lounge have too.
Campus health educator Shanelle O'Connor said she noticed the change.
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"Compared to last year, the numbers have increased. More and more students are coming in, and sometimes you see the same students coming in."
A flip through the nutrition lounge logs reveals just how vital this service is for those struggling to make ends meet. An average of 615 students and staff came to the lounge last October and November. In February alone, the lounge had served over 800 people.
For students like junior Joy Ezinneh, the lounge provides one less thing to worry about in lean times. "It's honestly the greatest peace of mind knowing that, OK, if I don't have something, I can come here."