Food insecurity on campus more common

May 06, 2014

College students bear financial burdens – and need more help to eat right and study.

Most wouldn’t think college students could go hungry on campus.

Students are, for the most part, smart, resourceful and socially connected.  They have a knack for finding food at events or nearby sororities, fraternities or dorms if they ever run short on their own meal plan.  And they could always buy less beer if their stomachs start to growl. That light-hearted perception is more obsolete with each passing semester, and remains true for only some today.  

The new reality centers on escalated costs for tuition, housing, food, and health care.  Since many parents can’t always keep pace with these greater expenses, more students bear their own financial responsibilities, assume debt, and really do need help securing food while studying.  According to The College and University Food Bank Alliance, which represents an estimated 50 food banks on different campuses, “Many students are now supporting families and working full-time while attending college.  These students are often food insecure or one missed pay check away from being food insecure.” 

The Michigan State University Student Food Bank, for instance, says it distributes about 38,000 pounds of foods to an average of 4,000 clients annually.  It is supported by charity and orders most of its food from the American Red Cross.

The Lempert Report urges supermarkets near college campuses to help in two ways:  support the food banks, and more creatively, offer food scholarships for, say, $500 worth of food redeemable at the local food store.  Offer several per campus per term so there’s enough gravity to become known among high school guidance counselors for potential incoming freshmen.  Use social media to get the word out to the current college student body as well, and encourage scholarship winners to share their stories of your goodwill on Facebook and YouTube.

Students that are already heading households, or soon will, are bound to remember the support you gave when they really needed it, and pay you back with trips.  This is one helpful way to plant seeds for a future customer base.