Food Insecurity on College Campuses

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By: Shannon McCarthy

Hunger is not always as obvious as the man on the street corner with no shoes and a cardboard sign saying “will work for food.” There are hungry people all over the world, in addition to those that are food insecure. “Food insecurity is the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. It is common at colleges and universities across the country, potentially undermining the educational success of untold thousands of students.”1 College is not free in America and it can be very expensive. Nowadays it is pretty much expected for high school graduates to go straight off to get a college degree or go to a two year degree program. Where are these students supposed to get this money from especially if they are from a single parent home or a moderate to low annual income household?


Even a moderate level income family of four has to save and collect pennies to send their children to college. All of this money saved goes straight to the classes and books, with little left for other activities. These “other activities” include eating. Campus meal plans can cost a huge chunk of money and have a limited selection and operation times. The college student ramen noodle diet is joked about but is a serious matter. Many college students are up to their ears paying for tuition, books, rent, parking, you name it. The last bit of their money gets spend on food and extra curricular activities. Food like ramen noodles is cheap for a reason, it provides little to no fresh ingredients, nutritional value, vitamins, minerals or really anything beneficial.

Being a college student means late night study sessions where caffeine and snacks are needed to make it through. Many students do not have the money for that four dollar energy drink or that five dollar protein bar. “Twenty-five percent of community college students qualified as having very low food security, compared to twenty percent at four-year schools.”1 Both of these numbers are high and they show how prevalent food insecurity is.


Food insecurity is linked with housing insecurity and a negative impact on education. Some students reported not being able to afford books, missing classes and even dropping classes.1 This shows that food insecurity has more than just a student’s stomach growling. Food insecurity effects all aspects of life and may alter a student’s ability to thrive in classes that they should be able to. Food insecurity may affect physical and mental health. Students with food insecurity are more likely to have a lower GPA than their peers with food security.3

A few ways to eat healthy on a budget apples-1841132_640are cooking at home, buying in bulk, buying frozen foods and buying from local farmers markets.3 All of these options help to save money, waste less food and becoming more food secure. Many colleges have programs with free meals and campus stores with free or discounted food. Taking advantage of these offers is another way to eat healthy and cheap.

Whether you come across the man on the street corner or the college student living off of microwave noodles, lead a helping hand. Help those in need by giving them a snack, inviting them to a potluck, or providing them a few dollars. Hunger is real and everywhere and we can help.


  1. Dubick J, Mathews B, Cady C. Hunger on campus: the challenge of food insecurity for college students. 2016:4-46.
  2. Preidt R. 1 in 4 college students is hungry: survey. HealthDay. 2016 3. Radcliffe S. Nearly 60 percent of college students are ‘food insecure’. Healthline News. 2014

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