As tuition rises and other costs of college go up, staff and students are facing a troubling reality: Many college students don’t get enough to eat.
This means students lack access to adequate amounts of food, especially healthy foods. This is called “food insecurity.”
Exposure to food insecurity is associated with unhealthy eating and an increased likelihood of chronic illnesses. In addition, food insecurity leads to stress, anxiety and depression.
Many who experience food insecurity are worried that their food will run out before they have the money to buy more. So, they skip meals and go hungry for long periods of time. Some only have one meal a day. Most of these students work and receive financial aid, but only some receive public or private assistance to help make ends meet.
It is hard to synthesize class material and fully concentrate in a state of hunger. Students cannot assimilate the information in a way they can apply, learn and commit it to their long-term memory.
Food insecurity inhibits student success, which means victims are less likely to be high-achieving. They have lower levels of confidence in their academic abilities and less genuine interest in learning. They are also less likely to feel a sense of belonging, engage with their professors and teacher’s assistants, and access campus services.
This can lead to students dropping out of college.
In theory, when students are struggling to make ends meet, they can turn to public assistance programs, private charities, friends and family. They can rely on strategies such as trimming their budgets and working longer hours.
In reality, it is difficult to make these strategies work. Therefore, schools, community colleges and universities have food pantries or sell subsidized groceries.
At UTA, the food pantry “provides students with the opportunity to receive a mixture of non-perishable foods to supplement their monthly food costs.” The Tri-C, Christian Campus Center, also provides a bag of prepared food when the food pantry is not open.
In addition to these resources, UTA should also allow students to donate their unused meal plan vouchers to other students to use at campus dining halls such as the cafeteria in the University Center and the new Commons.
The university can also offer cooking classes to teach students about healthy eating, food preparation, budgeting and grocery shopping.
These skills can help students learn to manage their money and food to get them through without running short.