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Let’s talk about food: The hunger crisis facing college students

Remember that time when you skipped a meal because the cost of a sandwich on campus was so absurd that you ended up not eating until you got home — or not at all? Well, you are not alone. According to the Hope Center, approximately 44 percent college students attending two-year colleges and 38 percent of students at four-year colleges face food insecurity. Although I had to skip a meal once or twice on campus because the food wasn’t worth the price, there are students who have to choose between paying for groceries or their tuition on a regular basis. Food insecurity and homelessness can happen to any student, but research shows that students of color, students who’ve experienced food insecurity growing up, and those who took a break from school for financial reasons are more likely to have trouble accessing housing and food. The rising cost of college and declining financial aid support also contribute to students being unable to afford food — not to mention students who have caregiving responsibilities that can be expensive and cut into available hours to work. 

New York residents are not exempt from these struggles. In CUNY and SUNY, at least 15% of students experience homelessness and 36% to 48% experience food insecurity. During the pandemic, these numbers have increased as students lose jobs and income. Imagine these numbers applying to your classmate in a Zoom call — or maybe you yourself have experienced hunger. While these numbers are alarming, they should also move us all to take action.New York’s college students can lead the charge to end hunger on campus by pushing our State Senators and Assemblymembers to pass legislation like Senate Bill 5574, which expands eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Senate Bill 64, which expands SNAP benefits to cover hot food meals, so students can use their SNAP benefits in restaurants near campus or home. 

Ogochukwu Ononiwu is a student at CUNY-Lehman College, and a Spring 2021 Young Advocate with YI-New York.