By Jason Martinez
EL PASO — Ester Zapata, homeless and hungry after she started college at the University of Texas in El Paso, never forgot the pain, loneliness and suffering of not being able to find relief.
So after she finished college, she decided to start her own program this year for low-income and hungry students at UTEP. With fast growing support from volunteers and the local community, a food pantry was inaugurated at UTEP in September.
Miner Connection consists of an organization and a physical location that promotes the well-being of all UTEP students and seeks to create social change pertaining to hunger and food security within the campus.
The organization includes faculty, staff, students, and volunteers who promote the use of the UTEP food pantry. The pantry’s mission is to “Help create awareness of the service, reduce stigma associated with hunger and food security, volunteer to maintain a functional space, dedicate time and energy to collection and distribution of goods, and conduct research regarding food security.”
Miner Connection is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of low-income and no-income students. According to a survey of the UTEP student body, 760 students said they knew somebody suffering from food and shelter insecurity on campus. More than 25 percent of the students attending UTEP have a yearly income of less than $12,000, which is below the U.S. poverty level, so maintaining a steady supply of food can be difficult.
Zapata explains that through her own experience she knows that malnutrition…