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Hunger and Me – Basic Needs Access

Ariel Clarke

Upon returning to my college campus for the Fall 2022 semester, I thought I had it all figured out and that being back for the first time since the height of the pandemic would be an amazing experience. I had just begun my junior year of college at the University at Buffalo, had an on-campus job, joined two e-boards that aligned with my personal and professional interests and lived in off-campus housing. Everything appeared in my eyes as if things would return back to normal when the COVID-19 pandemic never existed. Despite my plans and hopes of normalcy, I began to experience food insecurity while living paycheck to paycheck in my Buffalo off-campus apartment.

The city of Buffalo is located in Western New York and depending on where you live and whether you drive, access to affordable food can be either difficult or relatively easy for students. I currently reside in the town of Amherst and fortunately, have supermarkets with healthier options that range in prices, about eight to ten minutes from me by driving. In spite of this eight- to ten-minute drive, I currently do not own a license and would have to take public transportation, which can often be unreliable. I can consider taking an Uber or Lyft which would be expenses taken from my groceries to get to and from my apartment, or consider a walk to these supermarkets, which would take me an hour to get there. All of these factors in addition to having to pay for my other necessities affected my ability always to have affordable healthy food options.

Not being able to have food on a regular basis affected my health, my motivation to excel in my courses and extracurriculars, and remain as present as possible at my job which provided my only source of income. My experience may be individualized to me but it is a common occurrence impacting students at CUNY, SUNY, and private institutions everywhere. I hope with the support of the Hunger Free Campus Act that students in the future like me won’t have to experience food insecurity to the extent that I did or at all.

Ariel Clarke is a first-generation American and student of color attending the University at Buffalo (UB). She was born and raised in Queens, New York, and comes from a Jamaican immigrant household. Ariel is currently a 4th-year at UB, double majoring in Criminology and Political Science, with a Public Law Concentration. She has aspirations of becoming a public interest attorney, a chief diversity officer, or one day both, as she is open to many career paths within the public sector and diversity, inclusion, and justice (EDIJ) field. Ariel strives to be an advocate for all through the use of intersectionality, equity, and inclusive sociological practices in every environment she walks into. As a Young Advocate, she hopes to foster her desire to become a changemaker, advocate for equitable student access in higher education, and learn ways to engage in grassroots advocacy and policy efforts.