The results of an October 2016 study, Hunger on Campus: The Challenge of Food Insecurity for College Students, leave no room for doubt. Too many college students, especially those at community colleges, don’t consistently have enough to eat. A survey of more than 3,765 students in 12 states attending eight community colleges and 26 four-year colleges and universities found:
Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22 percent with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.
One in four (25 percent) of community college students qualified as having very low food security, compared to 20 percent at four-year schools.
Fully 57 percent of Black or African American students reported food insecurity, compared to 40 percent of non-Hispanic white students.
More than half of all first-generation students (56 percent) were food insecure, compared to 45 percent of students who had at least one parent who attended college.
The WSSN holistic approach integrates and “bundles” services on campus that support education and employment advancement, income and work supports, and financial services and asset building. To help students who are food insecure, some WSSN colleges help students apply to access public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Cañada College, for example, hosts on-campus that provide information about SNAP, screen students for eligibility and offer a same-day sign up.
More than half of the 19 participating WSSN colleges have opened or expanded on-campus food pantries that offer students food and sometimes toiletries. Skyline College, Eastern Shore Community College, Porterville College, Patrick Henry Community College, Cañada College, East Arkansas Community College, Big Bend Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Clark College, and North Arkansas College.
For example, Pete’s Pantry at North Arkansas College has served over 100 students and over 250 individuals, including students’ family members. Students who visit the pantry also can complete SNAP applications on site. At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, the college reported that $10,500 worth of food items had been distributed.