College students suffer food insecurity


Claire Kleffman

Photo by Claire Kleffman / CCAC Voice College campuses across the country, including CCAC, are opening food pantries to fight food insecurity

Robin Cleary, North Campus Staff

Nearly half of college students in the United States deal with food insecurity, meaning that they will sometimes go hungry, according to the New York Times.

With tight budgets, students nationwide have to make tough decisions on how to spend their money.

These expenses can include things such as shelter, clothing, childcare, transportation, health care, education, water, and food. College students already contend with the rising costs of tuition, in addition to housing and transportation costs, and often find themselves in significant debt even before they graduate.

With so many other expenses and work wages being low, it is becoming hard to budget for food due to the limited amount of money and time to work with. Trends are showing correlation with an effect on students’ success.

“Some studies have found a correlation between GPA and food insecurity; those who had a 3.1 GPA or higher were 60 percent less likely to suffer from food security,” reports Shannon Lee of the College Resource Center. “Those experiencing hunger were less likely to attend and perform well in class and were more likely to withdraw from courses.”

Organized by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, the study found that 45 percent of the students who responded had been food insecure in the past 30 days. Students from over 100 institutions were included.

The Community College of Allegheny County is no exception to this list.

28 percent of students at North Campus and West Hills Center had to choose between food and other expenses in the past year.

Claire Kleffman
A CCAC student visits the food pantry at North Campus.

“I’m actually dealing with that right now,” adds Eva Koumoundouros, a North Campus student. “I work at least 50 hours a week, and most of my expenses are bills, tuition, car payments, and books. If I paid rent, I’d be eating out of a dumpster.”

In another survey done by North Carolina State University, “About 2,100 students said work was the largest challenge they faced, with 61 percent saying the number of hours they worked didn’t leave them enough time to study. About 50 percent of students reported their wages didn’t cover their expenses.

College campuses are beginning to fight food insecurity in innovative ways. In an attempt to help students, efforts have been made to help reduce college students going hungry.

A well known type of help is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP was created to help low income families with food.

Students who don’t qualify for SNAP have other options as well.

Food pantries are a growing phenomenon across community colleges, CCAC being a host to several.

“Partnering with neighboring agencies, the Community College of Allegheny County expanded its services and operates food pantries at each of its four campuses as well as at the college’s urban center,” reports Quintin B. Bullock, CCAC President, in an open letter to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

Several efforts are underway across the country to combat college student hunger, including the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act in Connecticut, which would require institutions of higher education to release data about food and housing insecurity among their student populations.