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Food Access on Campus: Reducing the Stigma

This article is a collaboration between University Health Services and the Dean of Students Office. 

Oftentimes, holidays center around community and food. While this may be a comforting and exciting time for some, it can be isolating and stressful for those with limited food access. Limited food access, or food insecurity, can impact a student’s overall wellbeing – including their mental health and academic performance. It’s an issue that affects more students at UW-Madison than some may think.  

Making sure students have access to healthy and nutritious food takes all of us on campus building a community of care and support. Luckily, there are a variety of campus resources – including student-led organizations – whose mission is centered around eliminating stigma with food insecurity and ensuring everyone has access to the resources they need. 

Students at UW-Madison should never have to make the trade-offs between basic needs, like groceries, and important payments, like your tuition bill. The Badger FARE Program is a food support program that gives students $75 directly into their Wiscard account once a semester. The program supports students with long-standing or emergency needs, to make sure all students have access to healthy, enjoyable food. 

The Open Seat Food Pantry is another great resource that offers fresh produce and pantry staples to the student community – completely free; no identification needed, and no questions asked.

Aside from helping students keep their pantry full, other student organizations, namely Slow Food UW, help break the stigma surrounding food insecurity by offering warm meals on a Pay What You Can model. 

The Open Seat – 333 East Campus Mall

East Campus Mall Hours, Room 3203 (fall 2023):

  • Mondays, 1 – 6 p.m.
  • Tuesdays,  3 – 6 p.m.
  • Fridays, Noon – 5 p.m.

Slow Food UW – 1127 University Ave (The Crossing)

Family Dinner Nights (FDN): Mondays at 6:30 p.m. (pay what you can). Includes appetizer, main dish, and dessert that highlight seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers.

Café: Wednesdays between Noon – 2 p.m. (affordably priced). Items served a la carte.

If you are unsure of where your next meal may come from, are facing an empty pantry, or just feel like you don’t have enough food to feel your best, know that campus is here to support you without judgement. Starting the conversation with those around you can be a great way to break the stigma and receive the support that you need. 

The Badger FARE Program, The Open Seat, and Slow Food UW are not the only systems of support on campus for students experiencing food insecurity. The UW–Madison Food Recovery Network, F.H. King, the Keep Food Pantry, and the Campus Food Shed are also useful resources for students in need. 

The Dean of Students Office also provides assistance directly to students in need. Students can connect with the office by drop-in appointment, phone at 608-263-5700, or email at For more about food access resources, scroll down to Resources and Support on the Dean of Students webpage.