Over the next few weeks, college students all around the country will throw their graduation caps in the air and flaunt their proudly earned diplomas. And for many, long nights in the library will not be the only hardship they have had to endure—for many, food insecurity is more draining than studying.
While stories about late-night ramen noodles are commonplace in memories of undergraduate years, recent studies suggest that food insecurity, or “the state of having limited or uncertain access to food,” is a serious and widespread problem for college students, The New York Times reports.
According to a recently released survey by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, 45 percent of students from over 100 schools reported experiencing food insecurity within the past month. The nonprofit found that 48 percent of City University of New York (CUNY) students were food insecure over the past 30 days.
A senior at Lehman College, Kassandra Montes is one of the many hungry college students in America. This year, she didn’t expect to need a $5,000 loan to finish her degree, Montes said. She balances living in a Harlem homeless shelter with her studies and two part-time jobs. Each week, she budgets only $15 for food, usually using the campus food pantry and skipping breakfast to feed her 4-year-old son.
“I feel like I’m slowing sinking as I’m trying to grow,” she said.
College food-pantry movements are growing steadily each year, with over 700 members of the College and University Food Bank Alliance. Recent efforts have pushed to redistribute dining hall leftovers, increasing student eligibility for food stamps, and, perhaps most notably, changing education funding on both the national and state level to include living expenses in addition to tuition.
“The hunger movement has been centered around food banks, but that is now changing as people focus on prevention,” said Temple University professor and Hope Center founder Sara Goldrick-Rab.