It is no secret that it is incredibly difficult for students to finance their own education or housing in the United States. Yet, one key aspect of college life that is often overlooked is nutrition. College students are so worried with tuition and living situations that they may often disregard their health needs.
“Food insecurity,” a lack of nutritional food, is a growing problem among college students in the US. Many students are finding no alternative option than to cut out costs on healthy food when struggling to pay tuition and housing. Junk food or other inexpensive food options have become the norm with no affordable, nutritional choices.
Many universities are opening food pantries and George Mason University has even started a voucher program to combat this developing issue. GMU accepts donations from food services and other programs to offer needy students food coupons.
“Campuses across the country are starting to realize that there is that sector of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Nate Smith-Tyge, director of the Michigan State University Student Food Bank.
More research has been conducted in recent years to track the extent of this issue and to find effective ways to fix it. Although there has not been any comprehensive surveys or studies, some universities, such as Oregon State University, have been more active about identifying food insecurity. Their findings revealed that 59% of the student body had experienced food insecurity in the recent past.
As the Washington Post reports, students feel that moving off-campus will be a good way to save money but are unable to budget appropriately for food. Unfortunately, this situation leads to an increase in stress and anxiety.
“Almost as bad as the hunger itself is the stress that you’re going to be hungry,” said Paul Vaughn, an economics major at GMU. He, like many other college students, found that health and nutrition issues carried over into other aspects of his life and became a serious problem.
Another creative way to get meal money to students in need is seen at American University, where students have been taking to social media to connect students with extra meal swipes and those running low.
Food insecurity can be hard to combat, but, with more colleges becoming aware of the issue, more programs may arise to help struggling students.