Food insecurity is a scary reality for some higher education students.
The stigma surrounding food insecurity often makes it difficult to discover how many students are paying the price of choosing education over having enough money to eat.
According to Feeding America, a non-profit organization of a nationwide network of food banks, an estimated that 49.3 percent of its clients in college must choose between educational expenses and food annually and 21 percent of these did so for a full year.
For one Citrus College journalism student Dennis Carmargo II, this is a reality.
Carmargo had to make this tough decision when he decided to apply for classes for spring 2015.
“I had make to the decision whether or not to struggle with buying food for a semester so I could potentially get a job with my education, or make sure I have enough food to eat but lose out on education,” he said.
There are resources like food banks in the Citrus community available to help those who cannot afford to eat.
The Foothill Unity Center, based out of Monrovia and Pasadena, is a non-profit community support organization that distributes food and provides services to very low-income families and individuals.
FUC services 11 cities in the area including Azusa, Baldwin Park, Monrovia and Duarte.
FUC provides service to any one who lives in their service area and meets the income criteria.
“I think food security for students is an issue that is becoming more noticeable,” said Raina Martinez, director of development and donor relations at the Monrovia FUC office. “For example, students from out of the area don’t always anticipate how much expenses are going to be.”
A federal program assisting those in need is the CalFresh Program, which provides benefits like food stamps to households that live at 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
However, being a student can make you ineligible for food stamps.
“In order to have financial aide at school I need to be a full time student,” Carmago said. “But in order to get food stamps I can’t be a full time student.”
Citrus College does have some resources available on campus.
The Student Health Center located in the Student Services building offers support for students and information on local food banks, pantries and shelters.
The Associated Students of Citrus College executive board holds an annual food drive that donates food to two small pantries located on campus and the Foothill Unity Center.
Philomena O’Shea, food services supervisor, will sometimes distribute extra food at the end of the day to those in need, as a first hand witness to students who can’t always afford to eat.
She also maintains efforts to keep the prices of food at the Owl Café affordable.
“I cannot let the kids go hungry, it’s not right,” O’Shea said. “I have to feed them.”
According to Lil E. Sass, Foster/Kinship program coordinator, they provide light food such as sandwiches, oatmeal, bagels and coffee for the students at the Foster/Kinship Center.
Although the stigma behind this subject keeps most students from coming forward, there are local resources and staff and faculty at Citrus College that do what they can to help.
“There are a lot of [students] who are at risk of going hungry,” Carmago said. “We do what we can to help.”
Students can find a list of some food banks on the Citrus website, visit lafoodbank.org for other local food banks, or talk to the Student Health Center for more information.