Mary Christie Institute features UMaine Black Bear Exchange

In an article about student food insecurity, the Mary Christie Institute highlighted the University of Maine Black Bear Exchange, a community food pantry and clothing swap that remains accessible during summer break, as their primary population is off-campus students. Lisa Morin, the program coordinator, says she hasn’t noticed the usual decrease in students using the program over the summer this year. However, most of the program’s staff members are graduate students, many of whom are unavailable in the summer, leaving the program short-staffed in these months. “It’s a commitment to make sure that the food pantry is going to stay open to support all those people, but it’s definitely one we want to make,” Morin said. Frank Wertheim, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension associate Extension professor, told the Mary Christie Institute that the students facing food insecurity are also more likely to experience homelessness. Furthermore, students of color and LGBTQ+ students experience higher levels of food insecurity than white or non-LGBTQ+ students. “Those stressors, plus the fact that they’re not eating regularly, obviously impacts their mental health and ability to stay engaged in school,” Wertheim said.