HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Thousands of college students in Connecticut are struggling with food insecurity, and do not have enough food to meet their basic needs. 

UConn leaders said 55% of their students are food insecure. Of its five campus locations, UConn Waterbury has the highest rate of food insecurity.

A new, on-campus pantry called Husky Harvest will provide students with food for free.  

“Husky Harvest is a way to ensure that no student on our campus will be sitting in a classroom hungry or worrying about these issues,” said Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, UConn Waterbury Campus Director.

The Waterbury campus had a food pantry, but leaders said the location was too small to meet the growing need, forcing them to move to a larger location. 

UConn officials said when the original pantry opened on Jan. 17, they gave away 500 bags to students in need, and the pantry ran out of food within its first hour. 

Students News 8 spoke to said the initiative has had an impact on their families.  

“With the economy right now with how inflation’s affecting families, it was a great way to get a bunch of meats and poultry for my family and it took off a load of buying at the store,” said Juliana Jensen, a UConn freshman. 

“It’s been helpful for me because sometimes I forget to pack lunch, so I just go to the food pantry and I’m like, ‘oh, there’s food here,’” said Hanson Zou, a UConn sophomore. 

Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, said students are struggling with how they’ll pay for expenses including tuition, housing, books, and food.  

“All too often food is the thing that goes by the wayside. Food is the thing [students] said, ‘Well, I can do without that. I can go without a meal today. I can go without a meal tomorrow,’” Jakubowski said. 

He said nearly 400,000 people in Connecticut are considered food insecure. And now that the Covid-19 SNAP benefits program ended, he expects there to be more demand for food banks and pantries. 

“We’ve been planning for this. We’ve known that this [demand] is coming. We’re going to do everything we can to help the people in need,” Jakubowski said.