NORMAL — Hunger isn't only evident in a homeless person walking in downtown Bloomington.
It may be that college student hurrying to class in Normal.
That's why First United Methodist Church, in cooperation with Illinois State University students and staff and Normal Township, is planning to open the first food pantry in Bloomington-Normal exclusively for college students.
School Street Food Pantry will open in the church, 211 N. School St., Normal, east of ISU's Bone Student Center, from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 21, said the Rev. Kathy King-Nobles, the church's co-pastor. The food pantry then will be open from 4 to 6 p.m. each Friday.
The food pantry will be for ISU, Heartland Community College and Illinois Wesleyan University students in need, King-Nobles said.
"The students will be asked to show a student ID, but they will not be asked to demonstrate need," she said. "We wanted to make it as simple as possible for people. We know it can be difficult for people to seek help."
The food pantry is a result of a convergence of church members, Normal Township Supervisor Sarah Grammer and ISU social work graduate student Jeanna Campbell all becoming aware of increased food insecurity among college students.
Food insecurity refers to limited access to nutritious food, Campbell said. A fall 2017 ISU student government survey found that more than 60 percent of students responding knew a fellow student who had experienced food insecurity, Campbell said.
Complicating matters for ISU students is there is no grocery store near campus and neither of the two food pantries in Normal are near campus, Grammer said.
As Campbell was doing her research, King-Nobles, as co-pastor of a church beside campus, and Grammer, who oversees township general assistance, became aware of more students in need.
If there is such a need, why have so many luxury student apartments been built near campus in recent years?
"The student body is a complete spectrum of students," Grammer said. "We have wealthy students, but we need to be a community and we need to be a university that welcomes all students.
"As we build great accommodations for those who can afford it, we can't forget about the students at the other end of the spectrum," Grammer said. "I think we can support them a little bit."
"There are 25,000 college students in Bloomington-Normal," King-Nobles said. "Some can afford fancy apartments. But the larger number can't afford them. If you're not living in the dorms and don't have a meal plan and don't get support from mom and dad, you may have a need for food."
Food for the pantry will be provided by Midwest Food Bank, Eastern Illinois Foodbank and from a grant provided by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church, King-Nobles said. Students, church members and community volunteers will staff the pantry.
Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech