For many college students, hunger is “hard to concentrate”
As students enter college this fall, many people are eager for more than just knowledge. In a recently published study, as many as half of college students said they were either undernourished or worried.
This food insecurity is most prevalent in community colleges, but it is also common in public and private four-year schools.
In recent years, student activists and advocates in the education sector have drawn attention to this issue, and food storage rooms that have emerged in hundreds of schools are perhaps the most visible signs. Some schools across the country have also developed a “Sweeping Hunger Program,” which allows students to donate unused meal plan vouchers or “swipe cards” to other students for use in the campus cafeteria or pantry.
Analysts who study campus hunger say this is a start, but more system-wide solutions are needed.
“If I send my child to college, I want more than just a food storage room,” says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is also the founder and justice of the Community College Hope Center. . Goldrick-Rab said: “I want to know that they are addressing the high food prices on campus and taking steps to ensure that students do not go hungry.”
Katharine Broton, an assistant professor of education policy and leadership research at the University of Iowa, said that one of the reasons why this issue has not received much attention may stem from a misunderstanding of the true feelings of today’s students. And the university’s housing insecurity.
Broton said that many students are not suitable for those who work full-time and do not work in four-year schools. On the contrary, about 40% of students on these days are still working in addition to going to school. Nearly a quarter of parents are parents.
Juggling behavior is difficult to maintain. “We found that most students are working and receiving financial assistance, but they still face food insecurity,” Broton said.
Even more difficult is that although tuition fees and tuition fees continue to rise, economic aid has not kept pace. In the 2017-18 school year, after considering grant assistance and tax incentives, two-year college full-time students will pay an average of $8,070 for room and board, while four-year public universities will pay an average of $14,940 for full-time students. . In the room, board, tuition and fees.
Hunger researchers have alerted students to campus issues and in some cases provided clever solutions.
A few years ago, when she was a student at UCLA, Rachel Sumekh, who had created the Swipe Out Hunger project with her friends, said they wanted to do something useful with the unused points in the meal plan they needed to buy. . The program now has 48 schools as participants, and Sumekh said that in the past year, they have seen a “dramatic” increase in the number of universities associated with them.
When a student wrote to the Swipes program, “When I think I can’t eat, the free meal pass gives me a chance to eat.” “I used to be hungry, so it’s hard to focus on the classroom or study. [Passport ] really helped my study and may help me improve my GPA level.”
The University of California at Berkeley is part of Swipes. Ruben Canedo, president of the University’s Basic Needs Committee, said the project is part of the University of California’s Diversity Program and is designed to help students who may need additional support to meet their basic housing, food and other needs. (He also helped manage similar committees on all 10 UC campuses.)
According to Canedo, according to a survey of students at the University of California at Berkeley, 38% of undergraduates and 23% of graduate students deal with food insecurity at certain times during the school year. In particular, schools are exposed to groups known to be at risk of food insecurity – including parents, low-income or LGBTQ students, and first-generation college students.
Canedo said that one of the highlights this fall will be for eligible students to join CalFresh, the California version of the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, informally known as Food Stamps or SNAP.
According to federal regulations, students usually have to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify for SNAP, which many people cannot manage. However, Elizabeth Bass-Bath, director of income and job support at CLASP, an anti-poverty advocacy organization, says states can flexibly specify what counts as employment and training programs. For example, in California, students attending certain educational programs at the school are eligible for CalFresh, she said.
“This is our first line of defense,” Canedo said. “The monthly bonus for students is about $192.”
For students who do not qualify for CalFresh, the school sponsors a parallel food assistance program that also provides benefits. There is a food storage room that provides regular cooking demonstrations.
But Canedo said he is particularly proud of a 15-week nutrition science course that students can use to teach them healthy eating, preparing food, budgeting and grocery shopping.
He said that some of these skills can help students learn to manage their money and food, and help students with particularly tight budgets spend their time at school without going short.