Rise in food insecurity amongst college students raises concern

Jackson LaMarContributor

With food insecurity steadily rising among college students across the nation, Dean of Student Affairs Jules Tetreault said he wants to close the hunger gap by establishing a new source of food for students. According to a university health survey, about 30 percent of Southern’s population are food insecure.

“We are working on opening, first and foremost a physical food pantry on campus, that will be open five days a week,” said Tetreault.

This, Tetreault said, will replace the mobile food pantry currently being held every third Wednesday of the month. In addition to the pantry, an opportunity center is also set to open.

“[The opportunity center] will also provide us the ability to connect students to external agencies to help support as well,” Tetreault said.

The issue of food insecurity among college students has also managed to find its way to the federal level and is starting to appear in bills more often.

“This past December was the first time food insecurity on university campuses found its way to a federal GA report,” Tetreault said. “They do a number of reporting that comes out of the government, and this past December was the first report that highlighted food insecurity.”

This pas summer Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut congresswoman and class of 2005 Southern alumna Jahana Hayes, introduced a new bill called the Closing the College Hunger Act.

This bill would empower low-income college students with the tools they need to make sure they are able to eat enough. During Southern’s 125th anniversary Gala, at the end of the event around $135,000 was collected, and all of the proceeds went towards the Southern food insecurity fund as well as the establishment of the on-campus student food pantry and social services center.

“It was a successful event. It was an event to help support our students’ basic needs broadly, and food is just one,” Tetreault said. “We know that earning a college degree is indeed the path to break the cycle of poverty, and we need to create every opportunity to support our students.”

Tetrealut also mentioned the effects food insecurity will have on grades. If students, have nothing to eat, he said, there is only one outcome: poor grades. Students who are effected and unaffected by food insecurity can resonate the issue with not having enough to eat while going to college.

Special education major Rossano Digiacomo, a sophomore, said he does not experience food insecurity, but having the food pantry would improve the situation for others.

“If [students] need to get food but they don’t have [meal] swipes, then it will benefit them,” Digiacomo said. “I don’t know if I would use it personally, but, yeah, it would definitely benefit some people.”

Chemistry major Aaron Kaszas, a freshman, said Southern should do other things in addition to what they already have to help students with food insecurity.

“Southern should do something about that,” Kaszas said. “Make it cheaper, or give them a certain number of swipes per week.”

According to a study by Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, about 48 percent of student respondents faced food insecurity, and 22 percent said they faced “low levels of food security,” which puts Southern below the average at around 30 percent of students facing food insecurity.

Correction: Originally the article cited a study from Association of American Colleges and Universities but that is incorrect. The correct study was from Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice.


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