It’s 2:45pm and I have yet to eat a full meal today. I’m sitting in this cafe, sipping on my water bottle to keep my stomach somewhat full. At 4pm I have work and have to put on a smile while I serve people coffee and pastries I wish i could be eating right now.
Food insecurity on college campuses is real and I want people to be aware of how much struggle many students are currently going through.
These days a hot topic among many college students has been the prevalence of food insecurity on our campuses. Many students eat only one decent meal a day and sometimes even that is hard to achieve. I personally did not start experiencing this hardship until this year (my junior year). Because I am just one example, please realize that my experience and the experiences of others may differ.
I am a low income student who goes to an Ivy League school. When I made the decision to come here, it was because my financial aid package promised that I would pay close to nothing to attend. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to attend such a school but sometimes an open door can also lead to scary consequences.
My freshman year was like the honeymoon phase. I had an amazing meal plan that gave me 10 meal swipes a week and 500 dollars to spend on various other food items like coffee and the occasional snack. There were times that I truly felt sorry for my family back home, because I was eating well while they were just trying to get by.
Sophomore year, things became a bit rough. The amount I was expected to pay as a student increased and I could no longer afford the same meal plan I had gotten the year before. I instead opted for the meal plan that gave 750 dollars and 10 meal swipes for the whole semester. There were days when I would only eat one substantial meal and so I found a campus job to help me. This job ended up being a blessing in disguise because whenever I work a shift I am allowed one free meal swipe. Sophomore year came and went and although it was hard I wasn’t too stressed.
This year i wasn’t able to get a meal plan at all because the amount I was expected to pay increased yet again. I went to the financial aid office to cut the meal plan that I had originally thought I could afford. The man at the desk tried to convince me to keep it even though I repeatedly told him that I really wouldn’t be able to afford it. I try and work as many hours as possible at my job to make any extra money. I’m also trying to find a second job because the first one is proving to not be enough. There are days when all I’ve had for the day is water and maybe some bread.
My school seems to think that any money you make working a summer job should be spent going towards tuition which is very unrealistic. Many people who work summer jobs do so to help out their families back home. Also the amount of student contribution increases every year which makes no sense. Just because I’m one year older, doesn’t mean I’m gonna make a whole 500 dollars more working my summer cashier job. Its unfair, to say the least, that financial aid offices sometimes don’t look at the big picture.
At my school, if you want to get a decent amount of grocery shopping done, you have to take a bus out to Walmart or Wegmans, which ends up being a whole day trip. As a student, sacrificing a whole day to go buy groceries is almost impossible. Many go to Target instead because although it is higher priced, it is much closer and you can go and come back within two hours easily. If you don’t have a car on campus, its impossible to do a good amount of shopping, because taking the bus means you can only buy what you can carry.
The worst part about this all is the amount of waste that happens on campus. Because I work in dining, I am able to see just how much food is thrown away each day and at the end of each week. Whenever I tell this to my friends, they are just as disgusted as I am. How do you just throw away so much food? If you don’t want to give it away to students, at least donate to a soup kitchen or some kind of charity.
Sometimes I step back and realize that I’m not the only one going through this. My school has a class confessions page where people who are low income, first generation students, etc voice their concerns about campus life. Sometimes reading about people who are going through the same issues as me makes it easier to get through the day.
If you can’t afford to go here then why do you continue to attend? Day after day I see these comments on the confessions page and I can’t help but to ask myself this same question. Ultimately, being at this school can open a lot of doors for me and I’m hoping it will help to make my future a lot brighter. To get somewhere, there will be challenges along the way.
However, I feel like instead of asking this question, we should really be trying to figure out why such conditions exist. Why are there so many people on college campuses all over the country who are struggling to find even one meal? Going to school and living comfortably should not be limited only to those with higher incomes. This just creates more inequality in society that we don’t need. All college age students should be able to afford to go to a four year college.
My time here at college has opened up my eyes to so many things and I really just want to share the things I learn with everyone. The term “broke college student” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I want to ask my readers if they have had similar experiences and maybe share some of the things that your campus is doing to help combat food insecurity
Until next time,
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