By Lani Furbank
The ‘broke college student’ stereotype has inspired viral memes and countless jokes, but having to live off of ramen noodles is nothing to laugh about. As the cost of tuition continues to grow, food insecurity on college campuses is also on the rise.
While nationwide statistics on student food insecurity are not readily available, Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief charity in the United States, reported some striking figures in their Hunger in America 2014 Report. They serve an estimated 46.5 million people each year, and ten percent of their adult clients are currently students, including two million full-time and one-million part-time students. In addition, 31 percent of households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying for education.
Campuses across the country have begun to take a closer look at food insecurity among their students. At Western Oregon University, 59 percent of college students were food insecure at some point during the previous year. Thirty-nine percent of students at the City University of New York (CUNY) reported experiencing food insecurity in the past 12 months. One in five students at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) reported having to skip meals to save money.
In response to this national issue, the presence of food banks and food relief organizations has skyrocketed. In 1993, there was only one campus food bank in the country: the Michigan State University (MSU) Student Food Bank. Today, the College and University Food Bank Alliance boasts 347 campus food banks in their network.
The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College has compiled a list of ten organizations that are working to reduce food insecurity on college campuses.
What they do: This network of campus food banks provides resources to member organizations in an effort to alleviate food insecurity, hunger, and poverty among college and university students in the United States.
How they do it: CUFBA supports existing and emerging campus food banks by connecting them with other member institutions and providing resources and guidance.
Mission: “The College and University Food Bank Alliance is dedicated to providing support, training and resources to campus-based food banks/pantries that primarily serve students.”
Major funding: None – the organization is all-volunteer.
Profit/nonprofit: Not a registered nonprofit, but they do not make a profit.
Campus(es) served: 339 member institutions across the country
Director: Clare Cady (Single Stop) and Nate Smith-Tyge (Michigan State University)
Date started: 2011
Interesting fact: CUFBA was co-founded by the Michigan State University Student Food Bank and the Oregon State University Human Services Resource Center.
Social Media handles: Twitter: @CUFBA
What they do: The Campus Pantry Program assists students of all ages, from children to young adults, gain access to emergency food that can be used to make balanced, nutritious meals at home.
How they do it: Some school pantries provide pantry bags filled with three to five days worth of fresh and packaged food. Others use the client choice model and allow students to select their own food, including fresh produce, like they would at a grocery store. The program has served over 10,000 elementary, middle, high school, and college students, providing over 1 million meals.
Mission: “The mission of Food Bank For New York City is to end hunger by organizing food, information and support for community survival and dignity.”
Major funding: The organization provides programs with free produce and donated product. Each school has its own budget through the Petrie fund that is used for wholesale purchasing.
Location: New York, New York
Campus(es) served: CUNY Campuses: Kingsborough Community College, Hostos Community College, Laguardia Community College, Brooklyn College, John Jay College, Guttman Community College, and CUNY Law. New School also has a campus pantry, but it is not part of the CUNY partnership.
Director: Dr. Camesha Grant, Vice President, Community Connections & Reach
Date started: Food Bank For New York City was founded in 1983. The first Campus Pantry at the college level was Hostos Community College in 2009.
Interesting fact: Two in five, or 39.2 percent of CUNY students experience food insecurity.
Contact information: Dr. Camesha Grant ([email protected])
What they do: The Tiger Pantry provides food resources and education to members of the University of Missouri family in need.
How they do it: The pantry serves the campus by receiving food and monetary donations to provide a pantry that offers monthly three-day-emergency supply pick ups, and weekly produce pick ups.
Mission: “Tiger Pantry strives to provide food assistance for those in need within the University of Missouri community. We hope to change the perception of hunger on campus and to offer resources to students, faculty, and staff so that they may focus on the experiences uniquely available at Mizzou.”
Major funding: Drives. One of their biggest drives is “Beat Arkansas Week,” where they compete with the University of Arkansas to raise the most amount of food and money for their pantries.
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Campus(es) served: University of Missouri
Director: Grace Gabel
Date started: 2012
Interesting fact: The campus food bank serves as an auxiliary of the Central and Northeast Missouri Food Bank.
Contact information: [email protected] or (573) 882-3780
What they do: The MSU Student Food Bank provides supplemental support in the form of free food to students facing food insecurity and in need of assistance.
How they do it: The food bank is not intended to supply all the food a student needs for a two-week period, but to cut the student’s grocery bill at least in half. The distribution supply consists of vegetables, fruits, soups, pasta, rice, bread, at least one protein, cereal and other items. The food bank is a member of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, which allows them to purchase food at a reduced price of approximately $0.34 per pound, saving 70 percent off of wholesale cost.
Mission: “The MSU Student Food Bank is intended to provide supplemental food and other necessities for students and their families who are in need of this type of support.”
Major funding: Charitable donations received from community members and organizations.
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Campus(es) served: Michigan State University
Director: Nate Smith-Tyge
Date started: 1993
Interesting fact: The MSU Student Food Bank was the first campus-based food assistance program in the country.
Contact information: http://foodbank.msu.edu/about/contact-us
What they do: The Human Services Resource Center provides services to students who are low income, food insecure, and homeless. They offer training and education about poverty, income inequality, and socioeconomic class, and direct services to students in need. Their services include a food pantry (open to students and the community), a shower, laundry, assistance completing SNAP applications, on-campus meal and health insurance subsidies, as well as emergency short-term housing.
How they do it: The pantry is a shopping-style pantry that provides one week’s worth of food to those in need, with distributions happening every two weeks. In between these distribution nights, students and community members can come to get produce, bread, snacks to prepare small, easy meals, or a few staples items to help them make ends meet until the next food pantry distribution happens.
Mission: “We provide direct service, outreach, education, and referral services to OSU students to help alleviate the effects of hunger, housing problems, and poverty. Our aim is to meet basic human needs so that students can pursue a quality education. We also work to create a dynamic learning environment in which students, faculty, and the community can learn how to best address the current pressing challenges facing college students.”
Major funding: Donations from the community, student fees for staffing and capital costs.
Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Campus(es) served: Oregon State University
Director: Nicole Hindes
Date started: 2008
Interesting fact: In 2015, the HSRC Food Pantry served nearly 3,000 people with food insecurity by distributing over 44,000 pounds of food.
Contact information: [email protected] or (541) 737-3747
What they do: PUSH, which is an initiative of the Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) at Auburn University, unites universities in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. This coalition is made up of universities whose presidents have made solving hunger and malnutrition a priority on their campus
How they do it: The Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security includes an Action Plan, which outlines activities in the four areas of (1) teaching, (2) research, (3) outreach, and (4) student engagement. One of the first activities will be an inventory and mapping project where signatory universities will list current activities in these four areas so PUSH can identify areas where collaboration and cooperation can accelerate the goal of a zero hunger world.
Mission: “Advance food and nutrition security on university campuses, communities, and nations through collective and collaborative actions.”
Major funding: The project is currently funded by Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute.
Location: Auburn, Alabama
Campus(es) served: Currently, there are 87 universities across five continents whose presidents have signed on to PUSH. These include large U.S. land-grants, such as Michigan State University, Cornell and the entire University of California system as well as small private, faith-based, international developing world institutions in countries like Honduras, Columbia, South Africa, Liberia, and Thailand, and HBCU universities in all regions of the U.S.
Director: Paula Gray Hunker, PUSH Operational Director and Dr. June Henton, Executive Director of the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University
Date started: December 2014
Interesting fact: PUSH is part of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition executive planning committee for the first high level Summit, along with the government of the U.S., U.K., Kenya, and the ONE Campaign, working to make knowledge and best practices in these areas a global public good.
Contact information: Paula Gray Hunker at (334) 844-3219 or [email protected]
What they do: To ensure a holistic approach to the multitude of barriers that students face, Single Stop provides colleges with the resources, training, technology, and technical support to provide a multitude of free services to students, including food support such as food pantries. Currently there are as many twelve food pantries at Single Stop locations, and at least five on college campuses with Single Stop.
How they do it: Through a unique one-stop shop, powered by an eligibility screening technology that adjusts to the available resources and services based on state and municipality, Single Stop provides coordinated access to a safety net worth nearly $1 trillion and services provided by almost a million nonprofits—connecting people to the resources they need to attain higher education, obtain good jobs, and achieve financial stability. At over 100 sites across nine states, Single Stop partners with organizations that serve low-income families to provide wraparound services and ensure their clients have access to all the major anti-poverty resources available including SNAP benefits, homeless services, and free tax preparation.
Mission: “Single Stop harnesses America’s most effective anti-poverty tools to create economic mobility for low-income families and individuals.”
Major funding: Robin Hood Foundation, John M. Belk Endowment, and private donations.
Location: New York, New York
Campus(es) served: 18 campuses across the U.S (Baton Rouge Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY), Bronx Community College (CUNY), Bunker Hill Community College, Community College of Philadelphia, Contra Costa Community College, Delgado Community College, Essex County College, Guttman Community College, Hinds Community College, Hostos Community College (CUNY), Kingsborough Community College (CUNY), LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), Miami Dade College (North, Wolfson, and Kendall campuses), Queensborough Community College (CUNY), Wake Tech Community College, Central Piedmont Community College, and Nash Community College
Director: Christy Reeves, CEO
Date started: 2007
Interesting fact: The idea of Single Stop first emerged from a small community program started in a church basement in Philadelphia in the 1970s.
Contact information: [email protected]
What they do: This meal-sharing organization allows university students to donate unused meal points to their community, turning unused resources into action.
How they do it: University students donate their unused meal swipes, which are used to purchase meal vouchers. These vouchers are then thoughtfully distributed to students in need by a trusted campus administrative office.
Mission: “Swipe Out Hunger partners with college campuses to end hunger while raising young people’s awareness of homelessness and hunger through education and outreach. Every college student has insecurities. We believe hunger should never be one of them”
Major funding: None
Location: Los Angeles, California
Campus(es) served: 20 chapters across the nation (UCLA, USC, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Loyola Marymount University, San Diego State University, UC Riverside, Pepperdine University, Colorado State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Albany, Duke University, University of South Carolina, Howard University, Northwestern, Texas State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Central Arkansas, University of Notre Dame, State University of New York ESF)
Director: Rachel Sumekh
Date started: Began in 2009 as “Swipes for the Homeless”
Interesting fact: Swipes was invited to The White House and named a “Champion of Change” in 2012.
Contact information: Rachel Sumekh at [email protected] or (818) 636-5002
What they do: This campus food pantry battles food insecurity and malnourishment and serves students who need core food support at UC Berkeley.
How they do it: They provide an emergency relief food supply for undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley. Students can visit the pantry twice per month to receive supplemental nutrition for 8 to 10 days.
Mission: “To serve as the emergency food relief component to the larger UC Berkeley Basic Needs Security model.”
Major funding: On- and off-campus fundraising
Location: Berkeley, California
Campus(es) served: University of California at Berkeley
Director: Ruben Canedo, Basic Needs Security Committee Chair
Date started: 2013
Interesting fact: All non-perishable food available at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry is selected by students and vetted by our University Health Services Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. The fresh produce provided comes from our Alameda County Community Food Bank, Berkeley Student Food Collective, Gill Tract Community Farm, and the Student Organic Gardening Association.
Contact information: [email protected]
What they do: The UMD Campus Pantry fights food insecurity on campus and distributes emergency food to students in need.
How they do it: The pantry collects donations of good quality and nutritious food items that may otherwise go to waste. They then create a safe space to distribute good quality and nutritious emergency food to students, faculty, and staff. They also raise awareness around hunger issues and encourage student engagement.
Mission: “The UMD Campus Pantry’s mission is to alleviate food hardship among University of Maryland, College Park students, faculty, and staff by providing emergency food to University of Maryland, College Park students, faculty, and staff in need.”
Major funding: Staffing for the program is funded by UMD Dining Services, with support from interns from the School of Public Health / Department of Family Science. Physical space for the program is provided by the University Health Center. The UMD Campus Pantry has received financial support from a grant from the Maryland Parents Association, donations from Nando’s Peri Peri in College Park, and from individual donors. These funds have been used to purchase food not received through food donations from individuals, groups, departments, and independent businesses, and the grant from the Maryland Parents Association also supported the move from the Cole Field House to the Health Center.
Location: College Park, Maryland
Campus(es) served: University of Maryland, College Park
Director: Colleen Wright Riva, Director Dining Services and Allison Lilly Tjaden, Assistant Director New Initiatives
Date started: October 2014
Interesting fact: UMD Campus Pantry serves the whole UMD community including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. During the 2015-2016 academic year, the UMD Campus Pantry served 269 clients in a total of 1192 visits.
Contact information: [email protected] or (301) 314-8054