Columnist encourages creative methods to address food insecurity

Kathie Erdman Becker Guest Columnist

he College of Arts and Sciences has concluded its food drive challenge. 

This year was a tight contest with Journalism and Mass Communication coming out on top with an impressive 47 items per employee. 

But do these donations benefit just those in the larger Brookings community? How many SDSU students experience food scarcity and how frequently? 

Students enrolled in Introduction to Experiential Learning collected and delivered the college donations, but they also explored the problem of food scarcity among college students and local food bank resources. Feeding America, a national nonprofit network of food banks, estimates 20 percent of its college clients must routinely choose between academic expenses and food throughout the year. 

Even those who participate in programs such as SNAP (food stamps), find they are unable to use that aid at campus dining services or convenience stores, as reported by MSNBC.

As stated in an article by Feeding America, “Many college students who experience food insecurity struggle to reach milestones such as year-to-year persistence and certificate or degree completion and need additional institutional support to continue their studies.”

Across the country, campuses are opening food pantries in addition to those provided by the community to increase student access. According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the number of campus food banks has risen from 64 to 184 in the past five years. 

“Hunger on Campus” (a joint study conducted in the spring of 2016 by the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center and the Student Public Interest Research Groups) recommended educational leaders and policymakers address student food insecurity with the following:

Colleges should pursue a wide range of creative ways to address food insecurity, including the creation of campus food pantries, campus gardens, food recovery programs and coordinated benefits access programs. 

Policymakers should take steps to improve students’ access to existing federal programs, including expanding the SNAP eligibility requirements for college students, simplifying the FAFSA process (particularly for homeless students) and adding food security measurements to the annual National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. 

According to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness, food scarcity is most likely to affect non-traditional students, first-generation students and students of color. 

Given the SDSU student population, the idea that a significant number of students may be going without food or basic necessities on a regular basis should not be surprising, especially those who live off campus. 

What shall we do, SDSU?

Kathie Erdman Becker is the Coordinator of Experiential Learning at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected].