Food Insecurity and Homelessness on College Campuses
In college, students face many new challenges: harder classes, internships, increased independence, and living away from home. But recent articles are drawing attention to issues that our society isn’t as comfortable discussing: food insecurity and homelessness. At many colleges, food insecurity affects almost 40% of students. Additionally, 36% of students are housing insecure, and 9% are outright homeless.
Why are college students facing these issues? In many cases, these issues spread from existing poverty; students coming from low-income families simply do not have the money for food and housing. But these issues are no longer limited to low-income families. Middle-class students have found themselves in a similar position due to the cripplingly high costs of college attendance. While many receive scholarships and grants, these are rarely sufficient to cover all living expenses.
Food insecurity and homelessness are disturbing on their own. But for college students facing these problems, the consequences may be even worse. When students don’t know where they’re going to sleep or when their next meal will be, it can be impossible to focus on schoolwork. Many students see education as a way to escape poverty, but this can make it difficult.
Working to solve the underlying problems- income inequality, high educational costs, and lack of government support- will be important in the long-run. But what about for students who can’t wait that long? Universities can help mitigate the effects by acknowledging these issues and working to fix them. For example, Michigan State University screens for food insecurity among students and maintains an on-campus food pantry. At St. John’s University, students can apply for small grants to help them cover unexpected expenses.
While these actions help, it is clear that truly solving this epidemic will require major changes. As the Government Accountability Office plans to release a study on college hunger this fall, many hope that this issue will gain greater attention from both the public and the government.