I have been, at best, neglectful of this blog. I find myself at times wondering what exactly it is I want this blog to be. What niche I want it to fill. But in light of my inability to decide, I’m going to post the long-form version of a blog post I researched and wrote for work. I expect the shorter, edited version to end up on the blog of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance at some point. However, I don’t know when, and I know it will be chopped down version. I really like the original version, so here it is.
Hunger in College
Going to college is heavy on the pocketbook regardless of your income bracket. With a nationwide cultural and economic shift towards attending college, be it a two-year or four-year program, more and more people are attending college. This means that groups in which food insecurity generally occurs, the poor, are now attending college more frequently, and people with no personal income to contribute to their schooling are able to take out student loans and attend college in an attempt to better their circumstances. Attending college, however, doesn’t immediately change their income and in some cases can even lower it due to being unable to work adequate hours while in school. Add to that the fact that, since the 2008 economic collapse, which caused food insecurity to rise 24% in a single year, food insecurity rates still haven’t returned to their former levels (Coleman-Jensen, Nord, & Singh, 2013). That stark rise in food insecurity meant that households formerly not touched by food insecurity were dealing with it. Some 27% of people experiencing food insecurity make too much money to qualify for SNAP benefits (food stamps) (Resnikoff, Food Insecurity is at Historic Highs and Getting Worse, 2014).
In 2014, 10% of Feeding America’s 46.5 million adult clients were students, including about 2 million who were full-time students (Weinfield, et al., 2014). About 31% reported having to choose between food or school-related items in the last year (Weinfield, et al., 2014). As we make a push for Breakfast in the Classroom across elementary and secondary schools, with the aim to improve grades, attendance, and overall health and behavior, the same hazards to education exist amongst students pursuing their undergraduate and graduate degrees. People don’t simply turn 18 and head off to college and are suddenly food secure. Students are regularly away from home and on their own for the first time, have relatively little disposable income, and, in the case of graduate students in particular, regularly have families to care for as well. In fact, between 2007 and 2010 the number of food stamp recipients holding a doctoral degree tripled, with those holding a master’s degree increasing nearly as much (Wade, 2012).
In response to this often overlooked need, many schools have developed their own food pantries. The oldest college food pantry in the nation, the one at Michigan State University, has been running since 1993, and more than half of their clients are graduate students (MSU Food Bank, 2015). Western Oregon University, in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in 2014, was found to have a rate of 59% of students who were food insecure at some point in the prior year (Patton-Lopez, Lopez-Cevallos, Cancel-Tirado, & Vazquez, 2014). In 2011, A Campaign for a Healthier CUNY (City University of New York) revealed almost two in five students on campus had experienced food insecurity in the past year (Freudenberg, Manzo, Jones, Kwan, Tsui, & Gagnon, 2011). Here locally, several of our colleges run their own food pantries. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) opened a food pantry on campus in March, following a survey done by the 4-H Club which revealed 78% of those surveyed did not have enough food for themselves or their household. About 50% said this happened five or more times per semester (Hehemann, 2015). Other colleges with food pantries include the University of Arkansas, University of Central Arkansas, and Pulaski Technical College (Full-Circle Food Pantry) (Food Pantry, 2015) (Bear Essential Food Bank).
For many students attending college, local food pantries, whether on campus or off, are their only source of supplemental nutrition, as most students ages 18-49 are ineligible for SNAP. Stringent requirements within the SNAP program make it more difficult for students to receive SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP: Students, 2014). Students must not only meet the income requirements, but must be also meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Get public assistance benefits under a Title IV-A program;
- Take part in a State or federally financed work study program;
- Work at least 20 hours a week;
- Are taking care of a dependent household member under the age of 6;
- Are taking care of a dependent household member over the age of 5 but under 12 and do not have adequate child care to enable them to attend school and work a minimum of 20 hours, or to take part in a State or federally financed work study program; or
- Are assigned to or placed in a college or certain other schools through:
- A program under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998,
- A program under Section 236 of the Trade Act of 1974,
- An employment and training program under the Food Stamp Act, or
- An employment and training program operated by a State or local government.
- Also, a single parent enrolled full time in college and taking care of a dependent household member under the age of 12 can get SNAP benefits if otherwise eligible.
Things such as this make it easy to see why students can struggle under the high costs of living associated with being a college student. Despite attending college to work to improve their circumstances, the very act of attending college can sometimes jeopardize their ability to receive public assistance or continue their current employment. Working full-time while attending college full-time, while possible, can be quite stressful and often times students grades suffer for it. However, many of the students who participate in food pantries on campus have a very strong work ethic and are simply having a difficult time making ends meet.
(2015). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from MSU Food Bank: http://foodbank.msu.edu/
Bear Essential Food Bank. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of Central Arkansas: http://uca.edu/foodbank/
Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012 (ERR-155). USDA.
Food Pantry. (2015). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from Pulaski Technical College : http://www.pulaskitech.edu/food_pantry/
Freudenberg, N., Manzo, L., Jones, H., Kwan, A., Tsui, E., & Gagnon, M. (2011). Food Insecurity at CUNY: Results from a Survey of CUNY Undergraduate Students. City University of New York. The Campaign for a Healthy CUNY.
Full-Circle Food Pantry. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from University of Arkansas: http://service.uark.edu/foodprograms/full_circle_food_pantry/index.php
Hehemann, W. (2015, March 12). UAPB to Open Food Pantry for Students; Open House Set for March 17. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from UAPB News: https://uapbnews.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/uapb-to-open-food-pantry-for-students-open-house-set-for-march-17/
Patton-Lopez, M. M., Lopez-Cevallos, D. F., Cancel-Tirado, D. I., & Vazquez, L. (2014, January 09). Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among students attending a midsize rural university in Oregon. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 46.
Resnikoff, N. (2014, April 21). Food Insecurity is at Historic Highs and Getting Worse. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/hunger-the-us-historic-highs
Resnikoff, N. (2014, August 18). The Hunger Crisis in America’s Universities. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/the-hunger-crisis-americas-universities
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP: Students. (2014, February 27). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from USDA Food and Nutrition Services: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students
Wade, L. (2012, June 19). The Number of PHDs on Food Stamps Triples. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from The Society Pages: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/06/19/the-number-of-phds-on-food-stamps-triples/
Weinfield, N. S., Mills, G., Borger, C., Gearing, M., Macaluso, T., Montaquila, J., et al. (2014). Hunger in America 2014. Chicago: Feeding America.