Hunger in ?olleges

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Introduction: The Problem

Hunger in colleges is a serious issue that has been existing for years as student’s lack access to reliable and affordable food. Food insecurity is “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food (USDA).” Students in colleges, not only hunger for knowledge but also for food. The food insecurity issue has the potential of undermining academic success. Most students do not get enough to eat and are hence fatigued and worried.

The menace has been getting worse with time because of the failure to tackle it. Unfortunately, some colleges fail to admit that they have a hunger problem. The failure to admit that there is a problem only worsens the issue. Some researchers also attribute the problem to the increased enrollment of students from low income earning families (Dewey, 2018). Therefore, it is essential for us to understand more about this food insecurity problem among college students, its impact and the solutions that can help in ending it.

The transition to college is usually a big step in the lives of students. Most of them get excited about the idea of making new friends, advancing in their education, and living independently. However, the excitement about independence comes with many problems as the food insecurity problem attacks them.

A poll conducted by hope lab indicated that 48% of the students struggle with food insecurity (Kuzman, 2018). Nearly half of the students struggle to find something to eat and are worried about their next meal. Finding the cause of this issue and the most affected population can also help in ending it. The rate of food insecurity in college is high, and it is unfortunate that no one is prioritizing on the urgency of this issue.

Who is at Risk?

A study conducted at Maryland University established that fifteen percent of the students suffer from food insecurity and sixteen percent are at risk of the same issue (Ordway, 2018). Students that are mostly affected come from low income earning families. Most of the low income earning students join the college with the aim of helping to raise the living standards of their families. Ordway (2018) further stated that the affected students mostly receive financial aid from sponsors, and they often live off campus. According to Kuzman 2018:

  • 57% of African Americans report food insecurity
  • 40% of white students report food insecurity

The African American students seem to be the most affected as the percentage is higher than the white students. Another research also revealed that a quarter of the undergraduate students have children and 63% of them suffer from food insecurity (Kuzman, 2018). The high percentage is worrying as the children also end up suffering just like their parents.

The 43% of the parent students are single mothers, and they are the sole providers for their children (Kuzman, 2018). The children are at high risk because they are vulnerable to many diseases that may come about as a result of malnutrition. Elsewhere, 64% of students struggling with food insecurities have other challenges such as housing problems (Ordway, 2018). The issue of homelessness further complicates the food security challenge because it increases the intensity of the issue. Elsewhere, the food insecurity problem affects:

  • employed students
  • those in the college meal programs
  • students who seek material and financial help

A research conducted shows that 56% of the food insecure students are employed with 38% of them working for 20 hours or more in one week (Dubick, Mathews & Cady, 2016). It is saddening to realize that the employed students go through the same challenges as the unemployed ones. The high cost of living makes them struggle as they struggle with housing insecurity too. Moreover, 43% of students enrolled in the school’s meal program also suffer from food insecurity (Dubick, Mathews & Cady, 2016). Campus dining seems to not eliminate this menace as the students suffer just like the others. It is also interesting to note that three in four students suffering from food insecurity receive financial aid. The students receive loans, but unfortunately, the money does not seem to improve the situation. The severe challenge of food insecurity requires immediate intervention.

Health Concerns

A journal of nutrition and dietetics published by Minnesota University and Arizona State University suggested that most freshmen college students suffer from food insecurity (Ordway, 2018). The freshmen who mostly live in dorms lack adequate food supply, and most of them have worries about their next meals. In most cases, the students end up developing health issues such as anxiety and depression. 209 freshman students participated in the research and this is what they found:

  • 32% of them reported to have food insecurity problems in the past month
  • 37% in the preceding 90 days
  • Some reported being uncertain about breakfast, some about lunch, and others about dinner (Ordway, 2018)

The affected students are vulnerable to depression, and most of them struggle with that issue. Food insecurity among students has severe implications on their health. Research shows that the food insecure students experience loss of weight. The students lose weight due to malnutrition and stress as suggested by Krishnamurthy (2018). Some of them end up becoming underweight, and this has severe effects on their health. Additionally, others become malnourished as a result of skipping meals. Moreover, stress and depression are common among food insecure students.

Some report having constant headaches, feelings of worthlessness, feeling of helplessness, and recurrent anxiety attacks (Hughes, Serebryanikova, Donaldson & Leveritt, 2011). Depression among this population is present because of the severe life challenges that they are facing. When accessing food is difficult, the students end up getting stressed, and with time the stress develops to depression. Focusing is a frequent change among the stressed and depressed individuals. Therefore these students end up losing concentration due to hunger.

Academic Concerns

On the other hand, food insecurity among students leads to reduced academic performance. The hunger in campus research conducted in 2016 found that hunger affects the academic performance of students.

  • 32% reported that the menace affects their academic performance
  • 55% reported that they could not purchase their textbooks due to lack of funds,
  • 53% missed their classes
  • 25% dropped out of school (Blumenthal, 2018)

Many of them dropped out due to the stress of food insecurity and housing insecurity also contributed to the dropout. The high cost of living is a significant challenge to the students, and it contributes to reduced academic performance. Students fail to get pocket-friendly meal plans, and this affects them a great deal, as they are forced to skip other meals. Students with food insecurity problem are at high risk of recording low grades, as they cannot concentrate on their studies.

Unfortunately, the students with depression signs report a decrease in academic performance as most of them struggle to understand the concept they are learning. Reading and understanding concepts is challenging when one is hungry. Therefore, a quick intervention on this issue can help in improving the academic performance of the affected students.

Solution to Food Insecurity

At all of the checkouts at Towson University, students and faculty will have the option to donate to our “Hungry Students” Charity. Cash, credit card, and university cards can be used to make any donations. No matter how much people donate, they will receive a sticker for their donation. The sticker will look like the image above. The funds will be used to provide students in need of food on a university card. Those students who qualify to receive the funds will be notified and given the card.

To notify the students and faculty, we will send an email blast to everyone explaining the problem, what the campaign is, why we’re doing it, and how the money will be used. We will take advantage of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, which will both be linked to Towson University’s website. Posters and banners will be placed around the university and at checkouts as well.

We will also have a special campaign, twice a year, where people who make donations will sign a hunger plate, that will look like the sticker, to be displayed toward the end of each semester. Charities get the money, but no information on the donors, which is why this will be a great way for us to thank those who were wonderful enough to donate.

You’ve heard of a checkout charity if you’ve gone to a checkout counter and were asked if you’d like to donate to a good cause. They typically ask if you like to round your amount up to the nearest dollar or if you’d like to donate another amount. Checkout charities can get a bad reputation because people feel as though they are being pressured to donate without knowing any information on the matter such as how the funds will be used. We will be sure to make it clear what we are doing and why.

It is said that consumers continue to give and give to checkout charities and that people are more likely to donate when their wallet is already open. We will not pressure our donors. We will ask for a certain amount and will make sure the amount is not too high or too low (Kessler, n.d.). In a survey, 55% of the people stated that they enjoyed being asked to donate at the checkout, and 3 out of 4 people donated to charities at checkout (Checkout Charity, 2017). Checkout charities are quick and easy for customers and it gives them the satisfaction of helping others in need. 73 checkout charity campaigns brought in $441.63 million in 2016 (Hessekiel, 2017). I believe it will be a successful charity as we can raise money at a low cost.

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Hunger in ?olleges. (2019, Sep 18). Retrieved from

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