Food insecurity among college students is not only an issue for the individual student, but a student equity issue that each institution must tackle head on.
Although it is easy to assume that financial aid or parental support would cover the costs of college students finding food to eat between classes, the reality is much different. In fact, an exceptional amount of students are continually facing the reality that basic necessities, like a meal, are not readily available for consumption.
There is a difference between the occasional stomach growl in the third hour of a chemistry lecture and the emptiness of a stomach that hasn’t been fed since the morning before, if that.
I am not a doctor, nor is my major anywhere near a health field strategically. I cannot explain the dynamics of how dangerous lack of food is to the psychological and medical conditions of students past the explanation our moms give as to why breakfast is the most important and three meals are vital.
What my experience does permit however is the reality that dedicating yourself to academia is not possible when food is not an ready option and why institutions need to work with their student body to fix this issue.
In the years that I was a homeless student, one of those years being while I attend Citrus College, many details of my life had to be sacrificed for my success. Things were taken into account that I feel might be taken for granted by my peers; new clothes were not an option when nightly motels fees need to be paid. showers were a luxury when water wasn’t always available and food was taken at every opportunity because the occurrence of those opportunities were slim.
While many other details of surviving without many resources proves challenging, the issue of dealing with a hungry stomach while trying to focus on class may have been one of the most detrimental to my health.
Beyond physical health, I find it vital to also highlight the possibilities of harming mental health due to food scarcity. As college students, stress and an overwhelming workload can easily turn into a mental health nightmare, yet can easily be subdued with adequate food and continuous water. Yet again, for students who lack the access to a steady meal plan, this remains untouchable.
As for why higher education institutions need to take this matter seriously, it is simple: as we flash our “college of completion” flyers and badges, it is necessary to acknowledge that hunger is leading road block in student success. Since this is often an issue faced by lower-income students and students of minorities, this also becomes a student equity issue.
It is worth recognizing that both the Associated Students of Citrus College and Inter Club Council organizations on our campus take part in annual food drives during the holidays, as well as the Veterans and Student Health center that hold emergency food resources for students. Yet, for students who require food for an extended amount of time, this will not last.
To boost graduation and transfer rates, Citrus College, as well as all colleges within our system, need to take a serious stance against hunger and aid students in finding meals while on campus.
Food pantries are a primary step some institutions are taking to fight hunger throughout their student body. To have a volunteer-run pantry would include meals for students being ready before, in-between and after classes for as long as resources continue and students are hungry.
As a student government officer myself, I can already imagine the stress of filling volunteer logs to keep the pantry running and finding the food donations to never run out. Yet, with the financial support of generous donors, one I hope would be our institution, this stress may be relieved and students will be fed.
It is also worth looking into local businesses that understand the economic struggles of low-income students and are willing to assist in any way they can to boost success rates on our campus. Developing meal-plans that offer discounted to free meals on a regular basis would allow students the luxury of attending class on a full stomach and ready to learn.
I want to emphasize that while many students may take food for granted, others do not have that privilege. Hunger throughout the world is a real issue that is claiming the lives of so many individuals who cannot afford the bare necessities. But this world issue also strikes close to home on campus.
Community colleges were first instituted in order to support the needs and goals of those within the community. It is evident that those within our community, those attending our school, share the common goal of transferring to a four year institution or entering the workforce. Where we differ is the needs that students require to achieve such a success.
Students are hungry. Students are hungry for an education, for success and for stability. Some of us are also severely hungry for a meal and it is time we take a step back and make sure every student is equipped to accomplish each and every goal they set out for.