Food Insecurity at Clark

Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

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Picture a college student. You may see an affluent, young adult who comes from a privileged background with plenty of money for college, groceries, and any other necessary spendings. You may even imagine a lazy, privileged, and coddled person.

But that’s not the reality.

Certainly, more than half of students get some sort of support. However, Most college students do not end with a degree, and 90 percent of those that do have debt[i]. Realistically, most family incomes are stagnant. College prices are higher than ever. Work doesn’t pay enough, and colleges themselves are underfunded.

Today, federal SNAP regulations necessitate people to work 20 hours per week for food stamps. However, college coursework does not count as work. The value of the minimum wage has declined so that many have to hold more than one job. It is harder to find work opportunities that are viable. Things are changing rapidly, and financial struggle is a reality for many.

The issue of food insecurity among college students is on the rise. The term food insecurity is meant to describe those who do not have a stable source of nutritionally adequate food for a healthy and productive life.

A 2018 survey of college students, conducted nationally by Sara Goldrick Rab, found 36 percent of university students and 42 percent of community college students were food insecure in the prior 30 days.

Many students give money to their parents for food, leading to them being short for food. Many with food insecurity experience stress due to trying to keep up with classes, work, and the need to eat. This disrupts cognitive functions, leading to students not being able to participate in class the same way others can.

I am blessed to be a part of the student body here at Clark University. We care about our peers— hence the adage; “Marginalization is not something we do here.” However, I’m confused when I see that we don’t have many resources on campus for food insecure people.

Clark doesn’t have much on its website or through clubs for food insecure people that takes place on campus. We have the community garden, but that does not bloom all-year round. There are no designated points of contact. There are no scholarships or emergency funding available for students. There is no way to donate extra meal swipes or dining dollars.

These students often find themselves attending events hosted by clubs that include free food—which could potentially only include carbohydrates and are not obliging to a balanced diet. This lack of on-campus resources is detrimental to not only the students that need the help but also to what we represent as a campus as a whole.

The problem is that Clark doesn’t know how many students are truly food insecure. This is where I need your help. If the national average of 1/3 of college students being food insecure holds true, about 800 students are potentially food insecure at Clark. I believe a survey needs to take place to find out the true statistics of food insecurity at Clark.

Additionally, a Food Aid Plan would ratify this issue. A 5-meal plan is a solution needed for food insecure students. The program would give students in need five meals a week throughout the semester. Other students will also be able to donate their guest swipes or unused swipes to the initiative in hopes of helping more students than just those that are able to be sponsored. This food aid would be able to help students who are not able to afford the meal plan as well as those who cannot afford groceries or other means.

As a Challah for Hunger Cohort member in the organization’s Campus Hunger Project, I need club support for this food aid plan to become a reality. There are so many options on how to get involved: take a class that discusses the issue, meet with the campus’s administration, or write a letter to a University President or governmental official. With this initiative specifically, you can simply get your club on board and sign the google doc.

We cannot be successful as a community unless we are all combating food insecurity together.