Obstacles Facing College Students
- Students must work at least 20 hours per week to receive SNAP. Unpaid internships are not recognized.
- Working more than 20 hours per week lowers GPA and increases stress in students.
- 31 percent of students report choosing between paying for food or education.
Stereotypes vs. Reality
Stereotype: A majority of college students are supported by parents. Reality: 74 percent of college students either: have dependents, are a single caregiver, do not posses a traditional high school diploma, delayed post-secondary enrollment, attend school part-time, and/or are employed full-time.
Stereotype: The “freshman 15” leads students to over-indulgence. Reality: 22 percent of students at community colleges report skipping or reducing the size of a meal due to lack of money for food.
Stereotype: University housing is accessible to all students. Reality: In 2013, 58,000 students identified as homeless on their Federal Student Aid application.
Around the Nation
Think finals are tough? Real challenge for growing number of college students is getting enough to eat -PBS Newshour
“More poor people may be going to college now, but the college system in this country hasn’t caught up. Colleges and universities are systemically out of step with the needs of a large and growing segment of the students on their campuses.” Clare Cady, co-founder of College and University Food Bank Alliance
The Hidden Hunger on College Campuses -The Atlantic Magazine
“Hunger has a large impact on learning and college retention. For one, there is the obvious physical problem that an empty stomach makes it hard to learn in class. For another, it may force students to make decisions that interfere with completion. They might work longer hours at their jobs or take long breaks from their studies to earn the money needed to buy dinner, for example.”
How can you study when you can’t eat? The invisible problem of hunger on campus -Salon.com
“Food insecurity is even more difficult to gauge. Whereas K-12 school systems evaluate students to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch programs, no comparable assessment exists in higher education. Without reliable, regulated programs in place, it can be difficult to get reluctant students to out themselves as food insecure.”
College Hunger Hits Home
Matthew, an honors student at the Community College of Allegheny County South Campus (CCAC), first witnessed hunger as a volunteer at the campus food pantry. A resident of West Mifflin, Matt never expected to be on the receiving end at the pantry. Unfortunately, life changed when he lost his father to cancer.
Many families like Matt’s work hard to pay for life’s necessities like housing and food. Unexpected tragedies make getting by even harder. The passing of Matt’s father brought a loss of income for the family, “I had to cut back on things to pay for food.” Living at home, Matt has been able to manage his expenses and began working on campus, but now buys less food in order to cover school and book fees. Fortunately, the pantry has been a lifeline. “The pantry is good because I am able to get basic necessities like peanut butter and jelly.”
Most food assistance programs do not target college populations. Students struggle to get by as they attempt to manage coursework, internships and work in the hopes of moving up the economic ladder. The growth of food banks on college campuses exposes the problem of student hunger. As Matt nears completion of his degree, he plans to attend California University of Pennsylvania. He hopes to be the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree and work in the public policy field, possibly addressing some of the same struggles he has confronted during his college experience.