After shelling out money for tuition, room and board, books, etc., it’s no wonder college students’ food budgets lean heavily on cheap microwave pizza, burritos, and ramen—if there’s money left to spend on food at all. The cost of college is now so outrageous that universities in Pennsylvania and New York are moving to set up food pantries for students, many of whom are experiencing food insecurity.
An October 2016 report called Hunger on Campus found that “48 percent of respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22 percent with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.” That’s much higher than the 14 percent of households nationally that experience food insecurity each year.
To combat this, The Morning Call reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address pledge $1 million to create food pantries or similar programs across New York’s 24 city universities and 64 state universities. Similarly, more than half of Pennsylvania’s state colleges offer food programs for students in need. According to The Morning Call, at Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, more than 100 students each week take advantage of the food pantry. The program was born three years ago after staff heard that some students were skipping meals in order to afford textbooks.
From my experience volunteering in a pseudo-case management role at my local food bank, I can vouch for the prevalence of .edu email addresses on intake forms. And it’s not just undergrad students; graduate students with crippling loan debt and poorly paid adjunct professors also regularly pick up groceries. There’s an assumption that college students have meal plans and access to cafeterias, but that’s only true for a percentage of students. It tends to overlook those who attend part-time or who don’t live on campus.
So if you needed further evidence of the ways predatory student loans, ever-climbing tuition, and other higher education costs can financially decimate you, look no further than food pantries as the new student hangout.