Food insecurity growing among college students

June 3rd, 2019

Research studies and campus surveys suggest that food insecurity among college students ranges from a low of 9% to more than 50%, depending on the campus.

College students represent a growing — and often overlooked — population struggling with hunger.

A recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office found that the issue of hunger and food insecurity among college students in the United States is becoming pervasive.

Research studies and campus surveys suggest that food insecurity among college students ranges from a low of 9% to more than 50%, depending on the campus.

The College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), an organization formed to address hunger and food insecurity among college students, estimates that nationally 30% of all college students are food insecure. Fifty-six percent of these students are working and 75% receive some sort of financial aid.

Hardest hit are commuter students, especially those at community colleges. Typically, these students are working and have both living expenses and college tuition to pay.

According to a study by the Universities of Iowa and California, the students who are most likely to be food insecure are racial and ethnic minority students living off campus and coming from families where food insecurity was a problem when they were growing up.

Another study from the University of Florida found that students who did not have access to adequate food had higher stress levels, poorer quality of sleep, and were more likely to have lower GPAs.

Fortunately, many higher education institutions have responded by making resources available to support these students. Over 640 colleges and universities around the country operate food pantries on campus, according to data from CUFBA, and this number is expected to steadily grow.

 Locally, Bucks County Community College has been developing supports for their students who experience food insecurity.
 “After learning that 30% of (Bucks County Community College) students experience times where they don’t have enough food to sustain themselves and their families, we launched an effort to address food insecurity on our campuses in 2018,” said Christina McGinley, assistant director, Foundation & Alumni Relations. “We offer our students in need financial assistance to campus cafeterias and area grocery stores, as well as connect them with resources in the community.”

This year, United Way’s Bucks Knocks Out Hunger event will be held June 21 at Bucks County Community College.

“We’re very happy to be working with BCCC this year and hope that holding the event on campus will also help to shed some light on the issue of hunger among college students,” said Tim Philpot, the impact director for health at United Way of Bucks County.

Tobi Bruhn, vice president for advancement for the college, agrees. “We are proud to host the United Way’s Bucks Knocks Out Hunger event, supporting an effort that impacts so many of our fellow community members.”

McGinley adds that the college believes very firmly that, “every student should have access to high quality higher education without compromising his or her living conditions and without skipping meals.”

United Way’s goal is to raise $85,000 this year to combat hunger in Bucks County. “Donations from community members are what has made this event a success year after year,” Philpot said.

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