There’s A Hunger Problem On America’s College Campuses
Montclair State University’s food pantry is tucked away down a maze of hallways in the student center. Like the hunger problem on campus itself, the pantry is not quite out in the open.It opened on the New Jersey college’s campus in April, after administrators started hearing from students who said they were hungry and didn’t have enough money for food. They surveyed students, finding that more than half said they or someone they know experiences “food insecurity” — the lack of access to affordable, nutritious food.
A new report shows that the college campus hunger problem goes far beyond a few sad stories. It surveyed more than 3,000 students at a mix of 34 community and four-year colleges, finding that 48% experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days.The data suggests that hunger is more common among college students than the U.S. population as a whole, in which 14% of households experience food insecurity each year, according to the government.
“A majority of students who are food insecure were also working and receiving financial aid,” said Clare Cady, an author of the report and co-founder of CUFBA. The study found that 56% of food insecure students were currently employed, more than half received a federal grant, and 18% had received a private scholarship.”We’re talking about students who are doing all the things we’d expect them to do and they’re still not able to support themselves while in school,” Cady said.
Across the country, most campus food pantries are funded through donations, but some receive stipends from a school group. They’re widespread, but are mostly at public universities. They serve students at big names like Michigan State University, the University of Missouri, Penn State and Syracuse, as well as smaller community colleges. At Montclair State, the food pantry operates solely on donations. The Alumni Relations and Annual Giving foundation raised $10,000 over the summer and New Jersey-based Inserra Supermarkets gave the pantry a refrigerator and makes regular food donations.As word has spread, more students are using the pantry.”But it’s still one of those things people don’t talk about,” said Chris Beckus, another student volunteer.The pantry itself, a windowless room with fluorescent lights, isn’t exactly easy to stumble upon. But those who need it are finding it.”It would be wonderful if one day we just don’t need it anymore,” deCarvalho said.