As a graduate student in higher education at Northwestern University, I have begun research into the student hunger crisis across the nation. I have identified two articles that you should read to build awareness of this issue and ultimately prepare a response on your own campus.
Dr. David Steele-Figueredo, President of Woodbury University, offers more sobering statistics about the college hunger epidemic in his article, "Is College Student Food Insecurity Real?" He notes that 4 in 10 University of California students lack a consistent source of high-quality, nutritious food—so even one of the most renowned university systems in the world is not immune to this problem.
Yet there are some promising interventions that can help students receive the food they need to thrive at college. Steele-Figueredo highlights a national student-run organization that began at UCLA called Swipe Out Hunger, which takes the money from students' unused meal plans and converts it into food pantry items and meal vouchers for their food-insecure peers.
After reviewing these two powerful articles and conducting additional research, I have identified three action items to consider as you develop a strategy to support hungry students at your institution:
- Recognize Tell-tale Signs: Students who exhibit learning difficulties, or skip class to work another job, may struggle to receive adequate nutrition and need additional support from the institution (e.g., financial, medical, counseling resources).
- Eliminate Red Tape: Work with financial aid professionals at your institution to help food-insecure students apply for assistance from the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You should also connect these students with local non-profits or government agencies that provide social services, such as affordable housing options or transportation subsidies.
- Mobilize for Change: Encourage passionate students on your campus to start a local chapter of Swipe Out Hunger, or partner with your colleagues to create an on-campus food pantry if your institution does not have one already.
Simply acknowledging that college student hunger most likely affects some of the students you encounter every day won't alleviate the problem. By taking proactive steps to form a network of support with campus partners, external organizations, and concerned students, you can ensure that your institution meets the needs of its most vulnerable population.
I am an aspiring student affairs administrator pursuing the M.S. in Higher Education Administration & Policy degree program at Northwestern University. My professional interests are wide-ranging and include: career and academic advising; co-curricular student life and experiential learning; university-community partnerships; civic engagement initiatives; and assessment of student learning outcomes. You can connect with me on Twitter @jeffrey_scholl or through LinkedIn.