Going hungry in college is something that doesn’t cross many people’s minds. Between the different expenses we are responsible for such as textbooks, school supplies, and decorations for our dorm rooms, oftentimes we rely on the dining halls to fill our stomachs. Even that can’t be guaranteed. Grocery bills can become very expensive leaving us to ration what we have until the next time we can make it to the store.
Hunger on college campuses is not talked about much, but it should be. According to a Forbes article by Lisa Rowan: “A fall 2019 survey of nearly 167,000 students nationwide found that 39% of students at two-or-four year schools had experienced food insecurity in the last 30 days.”
In March 2020, college students came face to face with COVID-19, a virus that attaches its spiked proteins to receptors on healthy cells in places such as our lungs. At the beginning of the pandemic, many universities sent their students home in an effort to try and contain the spread of the virus. Thus, food became harder to attain for people who were relying on resources such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food assistance programs. According to a National Institutes of Health report, 38% of adults at the beginning of the pandemic experienced food insecurity in the United States.
When the world slowly reopened, students were invited back to live on campus and asked to comply with rules such as getting the COVID-19 vaccine and wearing a mask during in-person classes or anywhere on campus. Before COVID-19, the dining halls, which serve food from the vendor Sodexo, were known to put out food that didn’t impress students, leaving many to not use their meal plans. According to a petition from GoPetition, Sodexo served students moldy hamburger buns and uncooked chicken at our University and other schools including Bentley College in Massachusetts and Ithaca College located in upstate New York.
Forbes said that students infected with COVID-19 are 1.7 times more likely to experience food insecurity than someone who hasn’t been infected before. Hunger mainly affects students who don’t have the financial support of their families, have a low wage paying job, or have high tuition so paying for groceries takes a back seat. According to Harvest Hope: “Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has issued numerous refund checks to many college students across the country that helped to alleviate some financial stress. However, the overall cost of college has increased by over 25% in the last 10 years alone.”
When students became infected with the virus and had to be self-quarantined, they were provided bagged meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Students who ate these meals were often served the same thing such as a sandwich, fruit, and drink. Two of my previous roommates in my junior year had similar experiences and explained that they had food allergies or certain dietary restrictions and were still served meals from the university that they couldn’t eat.
They both tested positive for COVID-19 during different semesters and were put up in hotels and assigned to a room with a random person. Oftentimes they had to rely on food delivery apps such as Doordash and GrubHub to deliver their food in order to have some type of variety. They found the quality of the food was not fresh, which was disappointing and frustrating as they were left to use their own money in order to get the food they could actually eat and get the nutrition in their bodies in order for them to get better.
Our campus has a Career Closet/Campus Pantry located in Ruden Building 19, Room 005. This offers groceries and clothing items at no cost to students who might be in need. It serves as a resource for students who might not have money to get groceries or even have a form of transportation to get to the store. There are also off-campus food banks that can provide aid such as Bethel AME Church Food Pantry, Holy Ghost Deliverance Church Food Pantry, and Pitts Chapel Baptist Church Food Pantry, all located in downtown New Haven.
The start of COVID-19 was a scary time for many, affecting several parts of our lives such as health, education, and even the chance to get decent meals. College leaves many students scraping up money and oftentimes having to choose between important things in order to survive. Take the time to stop by the Career Closet/ Campus Pantry as it could be worth perusing and you might come across some good finds.