Letters to the Editor

Our Reader: Colleges should address students’ food insecurity

With rising tuition, skyrocketing student loan debt and massive textbook bills, students often face tough financial choices. Too often, meals get sacrificed.

Food insecurity, where an individual does not have steady access to adequate food at times, is a growing problem across the U.S. Just in New York state, over 2.5 million are food insecure.

It’s also a problem at our colleges and universities here in New York. This past year, four campus-based organizations — the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center and the Student Public Interest Research Groups — set out to survey college students on food insecurity. The resulting report, “Hunger on Campus,” which surveyed 3,765 students in 12 states, found alarming results.

Consistent with prior studies, 48 percent of respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22 percent with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.

Food insecurity was more prevalent among students of color. Fully 57 percent of Black or African American students reported food insecurity, compared to 40 percent of non-Hispanic white students. More than half of all first-generation students were food insecure. “Hunger on Campus” is a clarion call for action.

Colleges can pursue a wide range of creative ways to address food insecurity, including the creation of campus food pantries, campus community gardens, food recovery programs, and coordinated benefits access programs.

Going further, policymakers should take steps to improve students’ access to existing federal programs, including expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility requirements for college students, simplifying the FAFSA process (particularly for homeless students), and adding food security measurements to the annual National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.

To provide direct aid, contact your local NYPIRG office: 732 S. Crouse Ave. Syracuse, New York 13210, or by phone at (315) 412-5357. For the full report, visit nypirgstudents.org.

Sincerely,
Joi James
Co-Director
Hunger and Homelessness Campaign
New York Public Interest Research Group

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