Even with efforts to make college more affordable, many University of Houston students who come from low-income homes find themselves cutting back on basic essentials to make room for college-related expenses. Oftentimes, this includes resorting to cheaper, unhealthier food options. Fortunately, many of these students will receive some relief in that area thanks to a special partnership between UH’s Auxiliary Services Department and the Urban Experience Program.
Auxiliary Services recently donated more than $3,000 in food items to the Urban Experience Program’s Food Assistance Program, which works to assist low-income students with food insecurity and food shortage issues in obtaining healthy, nutritious meal options.
“Because UH is an urban institution, our demographics include many low-income students. The Urban Experience Program gives these students a voice on campus,” said Deborah Davis, director of Auxiliary Services. “As a service-oriented department, Auxiliary Services is proud to partner with UEP to help these students by providing them with nourishing snacks and meals to help them stay healthy and focus on their studies.”
Auxiliary Services donated more than 1,400 healthy snacks courtesy of their vending partner Canteen and 180 meal cards courtesy of their dining partner Aramark that students can use in any of UH’s dining halls.
The healthy snacks will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Students can get a snack before they go to class or when they need a quick boost of energy before they take a test. To obtain a meal card, students will have to submit an application and undergo an interview with UEP to evaluate their economic situation.
“UEP uses an innovative holistic advising model that services the whole student. We examine not only students’ academic, professional and personal goals, but also their health and wellness,” said Raven Jones, director of the Urban Experience Program. “A vast amount of our students do not have a meal plan. Therefore, they need other means to properly nourish their bodies.”
In addition to Auxiliary Services, UEP’s Food Assistance Program partners with the Houston Food Bank and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to help students who need food assistance on a long-term basis. It serves as the main point of contact for Houston Food Bank and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to assist students in obtaining groceries and SNAP food benefits. The organization also offers special programs to help provide meals to students during semester breaks.
The Urban Experience Program currently has more than 300 UH students enrolled and typically accepts 50-60 new students per semester. Students can find out more about UEP and its services by visiting the organization’s website at www.uh.edu/uep.
Davis said she and other leaders in Auxiliary Services are working to broaden their partnership with UEP and explore more options to assist students on campus dealing with food insecurity and food shortage issues.
“This is an important partnership, and we’re hoping we can work with our corporate partners to make this an on-going program,” said Davis. “We want to do everything in our power to make sure that UH students are living and eating healthy.”