Here's a reminder from the Farmlink Project about the prevalence of hunger among American college students (original link - https://mailchi.mp/thefarmlinkproject/farmlink-friendships-7857820?e=72faf70a8e)
As many Farmlinkers return to college campuses this fall, we must remember that hunger and food insecurity surround us even at a place where a meal plan is considered run-of-the-mill. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), in 2019, 39% of students at two-year institutions and 30% of students at four-year institutions reported some level of food insecurity.
These statistics were found to be more severe for certain minority students with Black, LGBTQ+, veteran, formerly convicted, former foster youth, and students listed as "independent from their parents or guardians for financial purposes," experiencing some of the highest levels of insecurity. Additionally, the experience of food insecurity is often coupled with other factors: 56% of food-insecure students have jobs on top of their studies and 75% receive financial aid. The AAC&U also found that at two-year institutions, 16% of students experienced both housing insecurity and homelessness, and 13% experienced both food insecurity and homelessness; these statistics were 11% and 9%, respectively, at four-year institutions.
The effects of hunger in higher education are vast, affecting school performance and mental health. A Journal of Health Psychology Study done in 2018 found not only that college students experience higher levels of food insecurity than the general population but that it negatively impacted their grades and career prospects. They found that 51% of students who were food secure got As in class, as opposed to 30% of the food insecure population. They also found food-insecure students were more likely to report depression.
A typical college meal plan costs around $4,500 for the 8-month school year, in addition to education, room, and board costs as well. This adds up to approximately $18.75 a day, and many colleges require students to have a meal plan if they plan to live on campus. When students’ financial resources are limited, this is a lot of money to pay.
Colleges can do a lot more to support their food-insecure students than they currently do. According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), 43% of food-insecure students are on some type of meal plan but still experience insecurity. This is possible because of differing meal plan sizes and school breaks when many students cannot afford to return home or take time off from work when the majority of the college dining halls are closed. Additionally, while college students are eligible for certain types of government assistance, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that most students were unaware of their options. GAO recommends solving this problem by making this SNAP eligibility more visible to interested students, as there are currently two million eligible college students who have not claimed their benefits. Of the 14 schools GAO contacted, only nine were familiar with student SNAP benefit eligibility, posing a considerable barrier for eligible students.
There are a number of organizations and communities currently working to better support students and their basic needs in America. One solution is increasing the ease of access to food banks and food pantries. Larger food banks can be far from campus, making transportation difficult for students. Oftentimes campuses boast food pantries for students; for example, CUFBA runs a network of over 700 campus food pantries. While food pantries and banks are one option, another is increased SNAP and WIC use. SNAP and WIC have proven to be successful interventions to reduce food insecurity. While it’s disheartening to know the large number of students who are unaware of their SNAP eligibility, one solution is increasing educational materials surrounding the SNAP/WIC application process. One example of how this could be implemented is by adding a section to class syllabi highlighting the SNAP application process and the hours of the nearby food bank. However, these solutions require college administrators and policymakers to be aware of the widespread nature of student food insecurity and be willing to make changes to combat the ongoing crisis.
As an organization composed primarily of college students, it is vital that as we return to our campuses for the fall semester, we are aware of the dire prevalence of food insecurity among college students.
Poetry X Hunger
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