We’ve all heard the stereotype that college students subsist on Ramen noodles. While most people say this in jest, food insecurity is a common problem for people pursuing a degree. Between the costs of housing, books, healthcare, and other necessities, students often have little (if any) budget left over to nourish themselves. During the pandemic alone, one in three people knew someone who dropped out of college because they couldn’t afford food, and over half of students occasionally used off-campus food banks.
If you’re afraid that food insecurity will get in the way of you earning your degree, you’re not alone, and there are resources available to you.
Search for Campuses that Are Designated as Hunger-Free
If you haven’t begun the search for colleges or have the opportunity to transfer, look for one that is designated as Hunger-Free. The Hunger Free Campus Bill has currently been passed in eight states. Campuses within these states that are designated as Hunger-Free have a task force dedicated to tackling food insecurity through resources such as an on-campus pantry or helping students access SNAP benefits.
Get to Know Your Local Pantries
There’s zero shame in visiting a food pantry, either on campus or in your community. Over 53 million people across the United States used them in 2021. Search online for the closest ones near you, and if you need help getting to them, don’t be shy about asking someone for a ride. Again, food insecurity is common for college students. The more people who know share their stories, the better.
Investigate SNAP Benefits
If you’re facing food insecurity, you may qualify for SNAP benefits. SNAP benefits can vary by state, but in general, you have to meet both the initial qualifications and at least one exemption. This makes it a good option for certain at-risk individuals, but not all.
Attend ALL the Events
One of the major ways organizations get people to attend their events is by bribing them with food. College campuses are no exception. While you may not be able to rely on events for all of your meals (we get it: there are only so many times you can eat pizza), they can certainly help fill in the gaps. Pay attention to the events calendar at your school, or follow organizations on social media that regularly host gatherings. If events on campus are running dry, keep an eye out for ones in your local community. Stop by the church that offers free breakfast once a month. Contact your local YMCA to see if they have any upcoming free meals for adults. Work in food service so that you can take advantage of leftovers. Encourage a club or activity you’re involved in to host healthy eating seminars. Etc.
Be Honest with Those You Trust
Sometimes there’s a stigma associated with being food-insecure, but you can help end it. Talk to friends, family, professors, and school administrators that you trust about the problems you’re facing. You’d be surprised by people’s kindness once you open up to them about your struggles. Even if they can’t offer you food directly, they may be able to connect you with resources that can, or at least lend an ear when you need it most.
Search for Scholarship Opportunities
The less you have to pay out of pocket for college, the more you have to invest in your nourishment. Ask your college or university about what scholarship opportunities are available, and if you are pursuing an undergraduate degree, have a dependant, and meet other qualifications, you may be able to apply for the Live Your Dream Awards.
Become an Advocate:
Most colleges thrive on maintaining a professional image and having hungry students is not a good look. When students are hungry it can lead to poor academic performance and increased dropout rates among other problems. While you don’t want to throw your college or university under the bus, there’s nothing wrong with getting a group together to advocate for positive change. Ask about what initiatives exist on campus to help students fight hunger, and if there are none, brainstorm ways in which you can inspire that change, like starting a Swipe Out Hunger club or a lunch voucher program for students facing food insecurity.
Don’t let hunger get in the way of achieving your dreams. Utilize the resources that already exist, ask for help when you need it, advocate and, ultimately, live your dream.
Paige Hawk is an Internal Communications Writer at DeSales University and Assistant Editor of the Alumni Magazine. She is also the owner of HumbleHollow.com and the author of The Wounds That Don’t Bleed.