Lone Star College-University Park announced June 10 a partnership with the United Network for Collegiate Pantry Sharing to provide short-term food relief to LSC-University Park through local restaurants. The partnership comes as on-campus resources have had to close temporarily—including food pantries—amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the release from Lone Star College System.

Meals will be provided at no cost to eligible students experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic through restaurant pickup and delivery orders, according to the release. The program is funding through donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and public funds.

“Food insecurity was a national challenge and a harsh reality for many of our students before COVID-19 but is even more of a stressor now,” LSC-University Park President Shah Ardalan in a statement. “Not knowing where one’s next meal is coming from can hinder any individual from achieving his or her full potential. Our partnership with UNCPS is particularly attractive because it doesn’t cost the college or the students anything while addressing a critically important need during these challenging times for those who need it the most. It is also a very innovative approach as it will help our local restaurants, too.”

According to the release, LSC-University Park is among the first 10 colleges working with UNCPS, which was founded in January before the start of the pandemic. The program is focused on supplying meals from local restaurants to further support communities that have faced restaurant closures and limited capacity requirements amid COVID-19, according to the release. Restaurants and UNCPS collaborate on balanced meals for students and incorporate dietary-restriction options as well.

Students may be eligible for the free meal service if they have a family income below 125% of the federally established poverty level for their family size, according to the statement.

According to UNCPS' website, students must complete a request for assistance form and have been a full-time student at a participating college as of Feb. 29, enrolled as a full-time student for at least two consecutive semesters at the same school, received food from the school's food pantry or another local food pantry within the past 60 days, have a valid student ID and live in the U.S. Additionally, verification that the college has moved all spring or summer academic programs, courses and lab sections to online is needed.

“Food insecurity is often an impediment to a student’s ability to even finish a semester,” UNCPS Chief Operating Officer Curtis Stephens said in a statement. “We wanted to take an innovative approach to a longstanding problem and build an accessible digital platform. Education is the key to getting out of poverty. In the long term, we are building a resistant food network for students with our colleges and local restaurant partners to ensure students can master their courses and find success.”

Individuals can support the meal service program by gifting a meal—or several—to a college student in need in the community by visiting UNCPS' website. Donations range from $10—which gifts one meal to a college student—to $250, which provides weekday meals to six college students in need.

In January, LSC-University opened Leo’s Shelf, an on-site food pantry, to also help combat food insecurity in the community, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.