Kat Cowley and the UM Food Pantry

students sitting in the grass



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Kat Cowley and the UM Food Pantry

Kat Cowley deals with another kind of safety crucial to those on and off campus – food security. Cowley is a Master of Public Administration graduate student and the student coordinator for the UM Food Pantry, which opened this past February.

She defines food insecurity as anything from only being able to afford to eat at Taco Bell every day to eating ramen for weeks on end.

“Anyone can end up in situations where they are food insecure,” she says. “It can look like a lot of different things.”

Her own story regarding food insecurity is personal. Cowley experienced it as an undergraduate sophomore working a minimum wage job and again as a senior, when she left an unsafe relationship and lost her housing. Cowley says it was very frustrating that there were no options for food assistance at UM, where she spent all her time and energy.

“I know firsthand how genuinely scary it is to not know where your next meal is coming from,” Cowley says. “I hope that by providing food to students for free, I can alleviate some of that fear.”  

Cowley cites low wages and high housing prices in Missoula as factors contributing to food insecurity for students. Many students also have limited hours available to work because they are going to school. And sometimes those leaving unstable relationships may need food pantry resources as well.

“In cases of domestic violence, often one of the reasons a victim/survivor can't leave is because of a significant financial burden,” Cowley says. “By providing food either at the main pantry location or to SARC's client food pantry, we hope to relieve some of that burden.”

November saw the most visits to the Food Pantry since its opening. Overall the pantry has served a total of 179 individual students in 403 visits. 

“There’s no qualifications to use the pantry itself,” Cowley says. “We just want to get people food.”