Joshua Boulet, Staff Writer
On Jan. 10, 2019, NPR released a startling article on college hunger. Many college students have trouble making sure they have food to eat. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) explained that they felt the federal government could do more to help. Specifically in the form of food stamps. However, there’s a caveat. Roughly 2 million college students could have been eligible for assistance, but didn’t apply for any.
This NPR report leads MAZON: a Jewish Response to Hunger and the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice to gather college journalists to be part of a conference call to discuss how to reduce college hunger. They brought some big figures, US Senator Patty Murray, Kathryn Larin from the GAO, Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab who is a professor of Sociology and Higher Education Policy and Samuel M. Chu who is the organizer for MAZON.
Kathryn Larin couldn’t make the call due to an outside meeting, but the rest of the figures appeared as stated. It began with Murray who heard stories from students, unable to get access to food. He felt that students should not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.
Then he passed the metaphorical microphone to Dr. Goldrick-Rap, who explained the history of the issue. She noted that it has taken a while to start addressing the issue because there was a severe lack of reliable data. No matter how many stories are heard, policy makers won’t listen if there isn’t data to back it up. The major findings were that many people in minorities and even middle class students could have been eligible and that the United States Department of Agriculture could do more to spread the world about eligibility.
After that, Chu started speaking again. He emphasized the amount of wasted money on unfinished degrees due to lack of food and the difficulty of applications. He also made a note to call out universities that don’t give their students a good way to apply for assistance.
This concluded the speakers, but they opened the floodgates to the journalists to ask questions. One asked about tips for raising awareness to the college faculty. They responded that students interested should send it to the dean of students/financial aid, and also should bring it up with the student government.
Another asked about the ways universities should help those impoverished, and they gave the advice to start a pantry, but that was only step one. They highlighted movements such as The Campus Kitchens Project and Swipe Out Hunger.
There was one journalist who brought up a point about the large range of students who are in a state of food insecurity. They quoted a number of 9 percent to 51 percent, so the suspicion was justified. The problem, according to the board, goes back to lack of data. The GOA had conducted a survey of several schools, but couldn’t possibly get every school to participate.
The board went on to clarify that people eligible for food stamps fall under the category of food insecurity. This is determined by a questionnaire with many questions about the person’s state and are used universally for all people. Food insecurity isn’t taken as a light term, since people are required to fall into many of the categories to qualify for the classification.
After the rounds of questions, the board said their goodbyes and the call ended. It was just a call and tangible changes take time to solidify. Nevertheless, the board hopes for students and others to help reduce the problem of college hunger.