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DARTMOUTH — A church near the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus is opening a food pantry to assist an increasing number of students who choose to pay tuition rather than buy food, the pastor said.

A test pantry will open for a week in December at the Dartmouth Bible Church, and by next spring a pantry should be established permanently, the Rev. Neil Damgaard told The Standard-Times of New Bedford. The problem appears particularly acute among graduate students and international students who cannot afford the meal plan.

‘‘These students have zero money,’’ Damgaard said.

The pantry is being put together alongside a related project: the reopening of a large garden on campus. The garden will produce some of the food that will be distributed at the pantry and will include herbs, fruits, and berries. It is a ‘‘sustainable design system to interact with nature rather than against it,’’ junior Gabrielle Monteiro said.

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UMass Dartmouth is not the first state college with a food pantry on or near campus.

Pantries operate at Bristol Community College, Greenfield Community College, and UMass Boston, said Katy Abel, an official with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

‘‘Sadly we’re seeing more and more instances of students who are having to choose between buying books and buying food,’’ Abel said. ‘‘It is heartbreaking, and it is a situation we see on a number of our campuses.’’