When we think of the average college student, we tend to think of the broke, starving college student who lives off ramen noodles and fast food, works part-time, goes to school full-time, and wings it on a daily basis.
While that isn’t the case for everyone, when you consider the rising cost of tuition, books, and living expenses, there are plenty of financial limitations including how often and how healthy college students are able to eat.
Although there are plenty of restaurants on campus and meal plans available to students, these can come at costs as high $2,000 per semester. Even factoring some of the educational costs out, there is a population of students who rely on financial aid for school, but don’t necessarily have access to additional funds to make ends meet.
Hunger is a growing issue at many post-secondary institutions. According to CNN, membership for the College and University Food Bank Alliance has shot up in the past couple of years and reported 400 institutions with active membership as of December 2016. Florida has a few members among this list too, including Florida International University (FIU), Miami Dade College (MDC), Florida State University (FSU), and many others. This issue is by no means site-specific or region-specific, but awareness is increasing as is this organization’s membership.
Data indicates that food insecurity is a more widespread issue on college campuses than among the general population. A survey of 3,800 students from 34 post-secondary institutions reported 22 percent of students on college campuses suffer from food insecurity, compared to 14 percent of homes in the general population as reported by the United States government.
Higher Education is evolving with the challenges its students face today, and these days, institutions in the US are adding food pantries to their list of resources. These food pantries contain non-perishables food items along with basic items like toiletries.
Many of these pantries also run on donations, including volunteers’ time and item donations. Because of the limitations on resources compared to the large populations on college campuses, these food pantries are need-based. Similarly to the financial aid eligibility process, institutions also verify eligibility to access their pantries. Some colleges and universities allow only students of theirs with valid student ID, some only allow students of theirs who do not have campus meal plans, some allow students of neighboring schools, and some even allow the students’ families.
Each food pantry can also establish their own regulatory rules to ensure there is enough to distribute. These regulations include the number of visits, number of items, and number of bags.
Ultimately, the goal is to reach a point where the resource is there, but where the need isn’t. In the meantime, for more information on the College and University Food Bank Alliance and how to donate or bring this initiative to your institution, please visit http://ww.cufba.org/.
By Aura Altamiranda