by Anna Shenk
I am a college student who strives to have and create healthy relationships with foods. I live on a college campus where my access to foods I want, and need are limited. Having poor and negative relationships with foods can even lead to impacting one’s mental health. With many college students living on campus, such as myself I rely on the food that the campus provides, which can be unpredictable. Smaller schools such as Shenandoah University have limited options and limited accessibility to foods that students can access with a meal plan. When not using or having a meal plan, students are resorting to outside food sources. I have had to resort to off-campus food locations multiple times due to having late practices and classes that ended past the set open of operation hours. Eating off campus can get very costly as well and sometimes I might even have to skip meals. As someone who relies upon on-campus meals for my food source, I hope to see better food options, more affordable meal plans, and better accessibility to foods near me.
Food insecurity is defined as being limited or uncertainty to obtain nutritionally food due to lack of financial resources (3). Food insecurity can lead to multiple issues some include unhealthy eating behaviors, decreased food intake, and increased anxiety.
There is a high rate of food insecurity in college students. Those living in poorer areas and that lack the resources, as well people of color are disproportionality impacted by food insecurity on college campuses (3). Universities may be overlooking food security and its effects on students’ health physically and mentally (1). This leads to the interesting connection between food insecurity and mental health in college students. While not receiving the appropriate nutrition can affect students’ academic performance. Food insecurity threatens a student’s ability to focus and to feel a part of a campus community. 1 in 3 college students faces food insecurity nationally (2). With students paying a large amount of money to attend a college or university we should be supportive and provide our students with accessible and nutritious meals. Many students who are food insecure are working, receive financial aid, and have a meal plan (1). Even with receiving scholarships/aid as well as having a job and meal plan, there is still a struggle to meet these food needs. As college students, we have many other necessities that we are inclined to pay for such as transportation, housing, healthcare, books, tuition, etc. All these financial responsibilities start to add up making it very hard for college students to thrive and afford these living expenses. This can put college students in an uncomfortable spot by having to choose how and where to put their money along with the added stress of not knowing where their next meal will come from. Unfortunately, many students would consider food to be their most flexible expense when deciding what to cut down or out of their budget (1). This plays a major role in the increased rate of food insecurity across college campuses. This is an extreme issue among all campuses where students’ basic needs are not being met.
There is an organization that is working on this issue. Swipe Out Hunger is a nonprofit addressing hunger among college students. In 2010, a group of friends at the University of California Los Angeles founded Swipe Out Hunger. They promote on-campus solutions, policy change, advocacy pathways, and develop ani-hunger programs. Swipe Out Hunger prioritizes and promotes programs that are sustainable, student-centric, innovative, and destigmatizing. They are working closely within each community to tailor to the unique needs of each community when developing an anti-hunger program. The organization spans over more than 140 colleges and has served 2.5 million nutritious meals to this date. Some local colleges in Virginia, William and Mary, and Liberty University are two campuses that are partnered with Swipe Out Hunger (2). In the 2020-2021 school year, they provided 500,000 meals to students who are experiencing food insecurity across the nation (2). This is a promising organization working to make a difference amongst college campuses to help wipe out hunger in college students.
We need to educate the public on this issue of food insecurity in college students. We need to support food pantries, give meal donations, and fund food and financial literacy programs. You can also email elected officials urging them to prioritize students’ basic needs. Addressing food security across college campuses will grant students with a better experience, academic achievements, and overall better health and wellness. Sign the pledge to act, be an advocate, and contribute to stopping food insecurity and hunger amongst college students! https://www.swipehunger.org/pledge/
Food Insecurity on College Campuses. (2018, August 6). CLASP. https://www.clasp.org/press-room/news-clips/food-insecurity-college-campuses
Swipe Out Hunger. (2021, September 22). Swipe Out Hunger – Student-Led Solutions to College Food Insecurity. https://www.swipehunger.org/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw18WKBhCUARIsAFiW7JzPW-AsliYG9Zac4qcbE5QoT-RqfJMPi9Un5Kp2v2UwiBYYULZk8N8aAlg3EALw_wcB
We Need to Address Food Insecurity for College Students in America. (2019, January 30). The Leadership Conference Education Fund. https://civilrights.org/edfund/resource/we-need-to-address-food-insecurity-for-college-students-in-america/