Barely a day goes by without a mention in the news of college admission scandals, whether it’s wealthy parents bribing their child’s way in to top schools or elite universities giving preference to the children of wealthy donors.
This can leave the impression that all college students are showered with large allowances and have easy access to mom and dad’s credit card.
The truth is vastly different. Nearly 40% of college students are from low income families. The gap between the amount of financial aid available and the cost of college continues to grow.
A recent review of research by the Government Accountability Office found that anywhere from 9 percent to more than 50 percent of college students suffer from food insecurity, meaning they lack reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.
According to the 2016 Hunger on Campus Report, food insecurity prevents students from purchasing necessary supplies like textbooks, causes them to miss classes or drop classes completely and eventually leads them to drop out of college at higher rates.
Food insecurity exists on all types of college campuses; community colleges and vocational schools tend to have higher rates than 4-year institutions. Rates are highest among first generation students, single parents, disabled students, students of color, students suffering from housing instability and former foster youth.
The problem is not limited to poorer areas of the country. A quick look at the Capital Area Food Bank’s Hunger Heat Map shows that one of the more at risk areas in our region overlaps with George Mason University.
Colleges and universities are starting to recognize the problem and take action. There has been a recent uptick in the number of food pantries on campuses as awareness of food insecurity has increased among administrators.
However, more could be done to ensure college students have consistent access to food. Experts are calling for schools to keep dorms open during holidays, allow students to share unused dining plan credits with other students, help eligible students apply for federal benefits like SNAP and accept SNAP at campus dining establishments.
At Food for Others, we have found that students who are food insecure often don’t know where to turn for help. Many are not even aware that their campus has a food pantry.
We make sure to let these students and their professors know about the resources available, both at Food for Others and at their schools.
Our hope is that everyone will soon start to recognize and respond to the hunger that is hidden right here in our community.