Hunger Runs Rampant on College Campuses

This article originally found at The Atlantic

The “Freshman 15.” We all know what that is, those 15 pesky pounds that many students gain when entering college due to a change from positive eating habits, sleep habits, workout habits, mom-feeding-you habits, to detrimental ones including late night snacking, pizza for breakfast, and dining halls with too many choices. This is what we normally think about when we think of college and food.

However, not everyone is putting on those Freshman 15. For some it’s not because they are watching their weight, but rather because they can’t afford to eat.

A recent study done by the University of Wisconsin shows that out of 4,000 students at 10 community colleges across the country, more than half of them struggle with food insecurity. What does this mean? It means that there are “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” And it also stated that “twenty-two percent of the respondents indicated that they had cut the size of their meals or skipped meals and were hungry because they didn’t have enough money for food.”

Although the study only reported 10 community colleges, I can’t image the data would be any different at, let’s say, a private university or an Ivy league school. One could see how a low-income student, getting into college on a scholarship, could have issues with food security. They may not have had the food before, and just because they have a scholarship to go to a fancy college, doesn’t mean they suddenly have the money to eat.

And eating is important when it comes to learning. It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach because one’s focus is obviously elsewhere.

On some campuses, students are told about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some students may be wary about having to go off campus to apply, wait a long time, and fill out “excessive documentation,” but I will say, as a caseworker for the Department of Human Services, this isn’t the case. Access to computers on campus makes the application process easy via the Compass website. Excessive documentation really isn’t that; it includes a copy of a school schedule to show part time vs. full-time status, income verification, residence verification, and basic ID to prove identity and citizenship plus a phone interview.

However, it is important to check your specific state’s requirements. For example, in Pennsylvania, ¬†half-time and full-time college students are not generally eligible for SNAP. Exceptions are for those who are working more than 20 hours per week (and work study counts), caring for a child under the age of 6, have a disability, or are over 50. This is what makes getting SNAP difficult for some students.

Some campuses are starting to help students in need by supplying them with cell phones, access to food pantries, and donated clothing. Some of the food pantries are even being placed on campus.

The goal is to draw awareness to the issue of food insecurity. It’s important that society is made aware of the fact that students on campus do not always have access to food, and that a lack of food could mean a lack of success. These students need help in order to succeed. Making sure they have a warm meal every night could be the key.

Read more of the original article by Laura McKenna via The Hidden Hunger on College Campuses.

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