Reality of Hunger on College Campuses
It’s a familiar cliché: the poor college student, subsisting on ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Clichés like this mask a startling truth that food insecurity is a major problem on college campuses, and it has dire consequences for students.
In fact, Century College in White Bear Lake found that 71 out of 100 students reported some sort of food insecurity which included not being able to afford healthy foods and running out of groceries before they’re able to afford more.
“Students growing up on free and reduced lunches no longer receive these benefits once they enter into college. Based upon our surveys and research we have found that many students struggle to make ends meet. Not only are they unable to afford basic groceries; often they are unable to afford to participate in traditional campus meal options. Sadly, they frequently end up attending classes suffering with hunger which inhibits their ability to concentrate on their important studies,” said Shawn Morrison, Executive Director, Good in the 'Hood.
Century College is not alone in its food insecurity issues. Hunger on college campuses is gaining more attention and recent studies have shown there is a great need. A recent study about hunger and homelessness in college by Wisconsin Hope Lab surveyed 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states. The study found that two in three students are food insecure.
“Younger students working toward a post high school education as well as older adults reentering higher education are often challenged with time constraints and limited financial resources that hinder them from moving forward in reaching their goals. The food support they receive provides needed nutrition helping them to stay more mentally and physically healthy which can enhance their academic performance. It also reduces their financial outlay for food which can then be directed toward other life expenses,” John Jaeger, Operations Director at The Open Door.
Our work to end hunger relies on partnerships in the community. Second Harvest Heartland is currently partnered with seven college pantries. The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Outreach team also works with colleges and agency partners to support SNAP enrollment and outreach efforts for students.
In order address important issues like hunger on college campuses, Second Harvest Heartland recently convened a group of over 50 partners - two and four year colleges and other stakeholders. During the Campus Hunger Summit, we shared ideas and solutions. A panel discussion included agency partners Shawn Morrison from Good in the Hood, John Jaeger from the Open Door, An Garagiola-Bernier from Century College’s Resource and Support Center and Nicole Bietz, a counselor from Inver Hills Community College.
The event was hosted by Metropolitan State University whose college pantry Food for Thought served an average of 455 households a month over past twelve months.
“The Campus Hunger Summit provided a valuable forum for others to hear about the need that exists on today’s college campuses. Hopefully this sharing of experiences will promote others into helping to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate,” Jaeger said.
We are excited to continue conversations and create innovative solutions along with our partners to address the issue of hunger for local college students.