Did you know that 38% of students at four-year universities were food-insecure in the past 30 days, which is a 5% increase from the previous year? This is a high number among college students that lack food. Food is a basic necessity, which is important for everyday function. Without it, it’s hard for students to focus or even have the energy to be in school. College students should not have to suffer thinking about their next meal — their next meal should be something that we all have easy access to, whether from our campuses or homes. Not having a proper breakfast, lunch, or dinner does not only prevent us from focusing on school, but sometimes can also lead us to take a break from school, as we look for a regular job to support ourselves. I myself have experienced food insecurity a few times, and had no other option in those moments than to take a break from school and look for a job to support me and my family.
Together we can create changes that can decrease the number of students dealing with food insecurity, and help students access food and housing. For instance, my campus, City College of New York, has been aware of these issues and has taken action. One way that they are supporting students is by creating Benny’s Food Pantry in 2017. City College encourages students or anyone who visits the pantry to take what they need for a family of up to 3 people. Usually, they are open from 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday. However, now you have to make an appointment to go pick up food due to COVID-19.
We can also start making positive changes by supporting policies and legislation that end food insecurity and homelessness among college students, and make our student body aware of programs that can benefit students. For example, college students can apply to programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) to get food money to help them. Many students may not know about this program, or maybe they do not know how to apply or who to ask about it. Students can use services like those provided by Swipe Out Hunger to get enrolled in SNAP, and can use their social media to let others know about these programs and other food resources that exist in New York. While we are fighting to address the growing number of college students who experience food insecurity and homelessness, we can enroll in benefit programs to help us in the meantime.
Djenaba Diallo is a CUNY-City College student, and a Spring 2021 Young Advocate with YI-New York.