Dinner or tuition? Food insecurity deepens on college campuses

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In her second year, Asikaburu found herself in a financial predicament when she learned she was eligible for a nutritional supplement program. She then created a guide for state and federal resources to help other low-income students, but didn’t find much support from her university.

Studies show that students are more likely to drop out of school and perform poorly when they are hungry. In Massachusetts, a group of advocates formed the Hunger Free Campus Coalition in late 2019 with the goal of passing legislation to better address campus food concerns on public campuses statewide.

Advocates expect a bill to be passed in Beacon Hill in the coming days that will provide state colleges with grants and technical assistance to address food insecurity. The Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative is pending before the Senate Ways and Means Committee and believes sponsorship will be passed in an informal session. The bill will also make more eligible students aware of government-sponsored food assistance programs such as SNAP.

If not passed, supporters said they would resubmit in January. Other states have passed similar laws, including Maryland, California, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, proponents say.

“We need to create a system-wide approach that ensures best practices are adopted, and not just a hodgepodge of well-intentioned initiatives that leave some students behind. is to set an example for everyone else.”

A new study finds that community colleges and four-year public colleges offer more resources to address food insecurity than private colleges. Students, advocates and researchers say: Private universities have long ignored on-campus hunger for fear of public stigma associated with poverty and potential brand damage.

But that’s starting to change as student groups become more open about their needs.

Northeastern University student Joshua Sisman advocates for more affordable meal plans for students and improved programs that allow students to donate unused swipes to those in need at the cafeteria. In a Northeast Student Union survey last year, he said 26% of the 1,225 students who responded said they had experienced food insecurity in the previous year.

“Food insecurity is a really big problem on campus,” said Sisman, senior and chairman of the Northeastern Chapter of the American Democratic Socialists.

Northeastern University currently charges $4,405 for an unlimited meal plan, higher than most other universities in the Boston area. The YDSA chapter has launched a campaign called ‘No Hungry Huskies’. The campaign has more than 2,400 signatures, calling on colleges to make changes such as lowering meal plan prices.

This initiative has attracted the attention of the government. Sisman now meets regularly with Northeastern University’s Director of Dining Services and representatives from Chartwells, a dining contractor, to address food insecurity and provide affordable dining options for all students. I said we were discussing how.

“Through our campaigns and outreach efforts, we were able to get them to commit a lot,” Sisman said. “The collective support of students really made a difference in the world.”

Northeast officials said in a recent interview that the university is expanding resources to alleviate food insecurity. community building, programs to minimize food waste in cafeterias.Expanding meal swipe donation program to graduate students. There is no pantry on campus, but a group of students run a communal refrigerator.

“Our goal is to make sure that students who say they’re hungry don’t go hungry,” said Madeleine Estabrook, head of student affairs at Northeastern University.

Swipe Out Hunger was started in 2010 by a group of students at the University of California, Los Angeles and is now a non-profit organization. Working with nearly 500 colleges and universities nationwide, we conducted a survey of 352 college campuses in 2021 and found that 45% of those schools had opened a food pantry in the last five years. Meanwhile, Temple University’s Hope Center for Colleges, Community and Justice, in his March 2021 report, found that 29% of four-year college students experienced food insecurity in his 30 days before the survey. I understand.

Several public universities in Massachusetts have been working for years to help hungry students. Bunker Hill Community College, for example, was offering free meals to students before establishing an official Food Her Pantry in 2019 with her $50,000 donation from the student government. Wixloan, a former professor at Bunker Hill Community College, said he brings peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other snacks to class in case students get hungry.

“The years of denial by state and civic leaders are shameful,” Sloan said.

The university’s pantry, called DISH, was added this year with refrigerated lockers that allow students to pick up food at the most convenient time without worrying about fresh produce.

About 200 to 220 students use the pantry each month, said Molly Hansen, DISH food pantry coordinator. According to Hansen, diapers and formula are among his most popular items in the pantry.

Bunker Hill nursing student Reenie Belton, who lives in Everett, relies on her pantry every month for food and supplies for her three children. Belton, 44, says that in addition to school she has two jobs.

“It’s not a living wage. It’s really not enough,” said Beltton, who immigrated from Guatemala with his parents when he was 9. [from the college]”

Similarly, Holyoke Community College student Luis Pinto Jimenez frequents the campus pantry and market. The university says it’s the first time it’s accepted her SNAP benefits in the state.

“Oh my god, it’s a lifesaver,” said Pinto Jimenez. “I can’t tell you how many times I had to take a break between math classes to eat something. Math is meaningless when you’re hungry.”

Hilary Burns can be reached at [email protected]. follow her on her twitter @Hilary Barnes.

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