We are used to hearing about the “Freshman 15” when students start college, which refers to the pounds that students gain when they are unrestrained from the control of their parents’ homes. But lately, we are hearing about a threatening food-related problem on college campuses. Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab have discovered that 36 percent of college students are undernourished — and a similar percentage do not have a secure living situation.
We don’t necessarily put hungry and homeless in the same category as college students since there are many places to eat as well as to live on campus. But, maybe it is just universities advertising and our perceptions have been wrong.
HOPE Lab did its research and looked at 43,000 students at 66 places of higher learning, including four-year colleges and universities in addition to community colleges, in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
The outcome of the research resulted in 36 percent of students at universities had experienced food insecurity in the month before the study, and the numbers were even worse for students at community colleges, where 42 percent reported the same thing. The housing insecurity numbers are similar, at 36 percent for university students and 46 percent for community college students. Additionally, 9 percent of university students reported having been homeless at some point in the past year, as did 12 percent of community college students.
Researchers think the reasons for this issue at colleges and universities are various. For one, colleges are getting more expensive, and financial aid packages do not do struggling students any justice. These problems are affecting the rising numbers of low-income students enrolling in higher education. Universities have been admitting and enrolling students from lower income backgrounds, but the Washington Post said that this hasn’t always come along with changes to the policies that affect these students financially.
“Prices have gone up over time,” Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Temple University higher education policy professor who is also the report’s lead author, told the Washington Post. “But the rising price is just a piece. This is a systemic problem.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only study that found results like this. The University of California system did a similar study and found that 42 percent of students across 10 campuses had experienced food insecurity, and 35 percent of respondents in a study across four Illinois University campuses found matching results.
Students need the energy to study or do work, which comes from eating food. When students do not have access to go food, it affects their performance overall. This brings a lot of extra stress that shouldn’t be an issue at a university. HuffPost reported that another study found that food insecurity was connected to “poorer health, poor academic performance, and mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety.”
The Washington Post had the chance to speak to a number of students experiencing food insecurity. They’ve had to make decisions on a daily basis regarding this subject and are almost hard to grasp of the stereotypical spoiled college student.
“I’m not going hungry per se, but there are days I’m just not going to eat,” George Washington University sophomore Emma Montero told the Washington Post. In addition to a number of grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans, Montero also works three jobs.
School systems are beginning to open their eyes to this terrible issue and trying to make a change day by day. Some changes they have made are opening food pantries for students who are in need or working with organizations to give food scholarships. It is a long road ahead, but noticing that this isn’t the norm is a start.