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Students at UNT signal a sky-high need for food assistance. Who's helping them, and how.

"You budget food, then prices go up, so then you have to budget more," UNT student Maddie Moore told WFAA.

DENTON, Texas — More than 40,000 students attend the University of North Texas.

And lots of them struggle to feed themselves. 

"You budget food, then prices go up, so then you have to budget more," Senior Maddie Moore told WFAA.

Moore works 25 hours a week to make ends meet. 

But rent is expensive, and inflation is high. 

"So, in many circumstances, I've used the food pantry," Moore said. "The most common reason for me, and other people, is insufficient funds [to pay for food]." 

UNT's food bank is run by dedicated student volunteers, sponsored by Kroger and run in partnership with the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB), which donates food items to the university. 

Once a week, any student who needs it, can swing by and stock up on free food, to make the burden of making ends meet a little easier.  

"So I can focus on what regular college students focus on, grades, school, relationships, life," Moore told WFAA. 

"You can’t study if you’re hungry," added Tristen Wheeler. 

Wheeler is a graduate student, and the interim director of the program that oversees the pantry.

Last school year, she said, students visited the pantry 5,700 times.

This year, students visited the pantry nearly 9,000 times. 

"So, we’ve already exceeded last year’s number," she said. "And we’re only in March."

Students often go hungry, Wheeler said, because tuition, rent, Wi-Fi, computers, books, and other expenses are so expensive. 

"So, yeah," she said. "Food is sometimes the first to go."

Wheeler added that students sometimes feel ashamed to come to the pantry for help. 

But Moore wants them to know there's no reason to be.

"You’re in and out, you shouldn't worry if someone sees you because this isn’t something to be embarrassed about this is a basic need that every student should have," she said. 

Moore also volunteers at the food banks as part of her on-campus job. 

For anyone interested in assisting the food pantry's efforts, Wheeler said anyone can donate. Any amount of money, she said, will help. 

You can reach the food pantry at DOSFoodPantry@unt.edu. The pantry relies heavily on donations.

If you yourself are in need of food assistance, whether you're a student or not, the Tarrant Area Food Pantry March 9 in Lewisville at Westside Baptist Church. 

TAFB staff say the mobile pantry will help families with food ahead of Spring Break, when many school food assistance programs close. 

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