Colleges are beginning to address food insecurity on campus, but byzantine government regulations and impossible criteria are making it difficult for hungry students to get ahead.
The 2017 “Hungry and Homeless in College” report from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab indicates that up to two-thirds of college students aren’t eating enough food. Though schools are making college accessible to first-generation and lower-income students, scholarships are not enough. While there have been no widespread studies on the effects of food insecurity at the college level, a number of smaller studies can help paint a picture of the effects of food insecurity: among them, higher likelihood to experience stress, lower grade point averages, and an almost 10 percent reduction in the likelihood of obtaining their degree.
It’s this lack of visibility that’s of particular concern to Sara Goldrick-Rab, founder of the HOPE Lab. She notes that many of these students are probably not going to finish their degrees, yet one-third have student loans. They are likely to drop out and will be struggling financially to survive. “[Studies show] that food and housing insecurity is hindering academic progress,” Goldrick-Rab says. “There is plenty of evidence of effort among these students; they have grit coming out of their ears. But unlike in K-12 education, we don’t match their commitment with programs to ensure they get to eat and sleep.”