Friday, January 11, 2019

More on Food Insecurity on College Campuses

We have blogged about this issue in the past. Although most of the conversation in higher education centers on undergraduates, we all know law students who struggle financially and have had to choose other priorities than eating.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office published a new report on food insecurity on college campuses for low-income students: GAO Report on Food Insecurity. Articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education have recently published stories on food insecurity. The links for The Chronicle are here: 3 Takeaways and Student Stories. The link for Inside Higher Ed is here: Federal Report on College Students and Hunger.

Although there is a focus in the report on how to get more eligible students lined up with the SNAP benefit, the truth is that there are a number of students who are ineligible for government programs and who have food insecurity. They are above the financial cut-offs, but do not have enough loan or other income to make ends meet every month. These are not students who do not know how to manage money or who live frivolously. They live very frugally, and juggle rent, utilities, tuition, fees, books, gas, prescriptions, and perhaps child care. The dollars run out before the days in the month do.

I can empathize. I well-remember end-of-the-month shortfalls waiting for the next stipend check during graduate school. I would spend the last week eating crackers and hot tea at my graduate assistant desk. I only bought essentials, paid bills, and ate a lot of soup, pasta, and stir fry the rest of month to stretch my dollars. Students these days are Ramen-noodle pros - no wonder the noodles are a bulk item at the food warehouses. (We won't even get into the good nutrition versus poor-nutrition foods debate.)

It is hard to study and focus your mind when you are hungry. So how do we help our students?

Certainly if they are eligible for SNAP, then information should be available to them to get them to sign up - despite the stigma they feel. In a few cases, they may be able to work with the financial aid office to review their aid budget for an increase - but if that just means increased loan eligibility, then students are often reticent to go that route. Some law schools have emergency loan funds with low or no interest. Our university has a food pantry available for students. Students comment that speakers and meetings where food is provided allow them to get some extra meals that week.

Maybe one of the best ways ASP'ers can help is to be more on alert to the possibility that some students are going hungry. Some gentle questioning and listening may provide us with previously overlooked opportunities to help our students get assistance in this area. (Amy Jarmon)

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