Thursday, June 21, 2018
Food Pantries Established on College Campuses
SCHENECTADY, N.Y.—Free food pantries are becoming nearly as common as the campus bookstore at a growing number of colleges.
More than 570 campus food pantries nationwide are registered with the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which formed in 2012 and helps colleges set up food pantries and other hunger programs. New York recently required that they be established at all institutions in its state university system.
"You can't concentrate when you're hungry; you're irritable, you're not focusing. I did not perform well on some exams," said Manhattan Community College student Melanie Aucello, who is working on a college degree in hopes of improving her family's quality of life.
A report published this month by a lab at the University of Wisconsin found 36 percent of 43,000 students attending two- and four-year colleges who were surveyed in 20 states had trouble getting enough to eat, threatening the academic success that's key to overcoming poverty.
Among community college students alone, 42 percent struggled to pay for balanced meals.
"We see food-insecure students devote as much time to school and homework as other students, but they also work longer hours and get less sleep," said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Temple University sociologist and founder of the HOPE (Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education) Lab at Wisconsin.
Studies, she said, have shown such students are likely to have lower grades and graduation rates.
For young students from well-to-do families, spending time as a starving student scarfing ramen noodles is often written off as a humorous rite of passage. But the demographics of typical college students are changing, and for many, hunger is a serious reality, Dr. Goldrick-Rab said.
Food insecurity is related to soaring college costs, stagnant family incomes, a poor labor market for part-time workers, and employment requirements that make food stamps inaccessible, Goldrick-Rab said. There are also more low-income students, sometimes with children of their own, she said.
"There is no typical student who's food insecure; it can impact any type of student," said Clare Cady, a Temple University official who is co-founder of the College and University Food Bank Alliance.
Food pantries cost little to colleges because they're typically run by volunteer students and faculty and are supported by donations of food and money.