In recent years, college students have taken on the reputation of being “broke,” having to survive on Ramen noodles. For some, however, this is a harsh reality they must face every day.
A January 2019 article in The Atlantic highlighted recent research by the Government Accountability Office which revealed there are potentially millions of students at risk of being “food insecure,” meaning they don’t have access to nutritious and stable food options.
Specifically, the study found that out of 31 studies done in the U.S. since 2007, an estimated 30 percent of students are food insecure.
Many students in financially strained situations are likely able to enroll in college thanks to generous financial aid and/or academic scholarships. Apart from the other costs of being in school, including fees to purchase textbooks and dorm room supplies, paying for food or transportation could seem impossible.
While Waynesburg University does offer a generous meal plan through Aladdin Food Management Services, the smallest meal plan only offers 10 meals a week for $4,780 per semester. This means that if a financially strained student lives on campus and stays on the weekends, they will need to pay for four additional meals, assuming the student only eats two meals per day.
There is always the option for the student to get an on-campus job if their academic schedule permits, but Waynesburg’s 14-hour work week policy means the student could not make any more than $400 a month, likely less after taxes are taken out.
A document titled, “What are the Psychological Effects of Hunger on Children” released by the American Psychological Association claimed “low food security and hunger can lead to toxic stress, malnutrition and limited mental reserves.” On top of the other general stresses that come with being a college student, the thought of food insecurity could be enough to make them drop out prior to receiving their diploma.
The staff of The Yellow Jacket would like to encourage Waynesburg University’s administration to consider food insecurity as an issue on campus. The university itself is dedicated to serving the surrounding community, but perhaps a new focus should be placed on its own students. In fact, these same students who may be going to bed hungry may also be required to dedicate at least 30 hours to working at local food banks or soup kitchens.
One suggestion for solving this issue would be to create a free food pantry or functional fruit and vegetable garden for students to partake in. Other private schools in southwestern Pennsylvania, including Point Park University, have already started their own successful pantry programs.
By addressing student food insecurity, Waynesburg would be investing in graduation rates and lessening the unspoken stress on low-income students struggling to make ends meet. While the “broke college student” stigma may never leave, it is up to the administration to address this issue and to ensure students are safe.