Food insecurity is a prevalent issue regardless of the college or community that we live in. We come from different neighborhoods, schools, and states; however we see similar problems in students being able to access healthy food. Therefore, as part of the 2016 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting we’d like to put this issue on the forefront of our agendas. As the inaugural CLDE Student Interns, we invite you to read our experiences below and to engage in dialogue in Indianapolis during the food insecurity session on Saturday, June 4th. We’re also proud to partner with IUPUI’s campus food pantry – Paw’s Pantry – by hosting a food drive throughout #CLDE16. You can bring non-perishable food and monetary donations to the registration desk for donation.
In Delta College, for example, there are students who do not have enough money to buy food every day and have no food to bring from home. These students are still strong students, earning 4.0 GPA’s and continuously participating in campus endeavors; however it is hard to see them struggle with food insecurity. Similarly, at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), students frequently notice food insecurity in surrounding communities, specifically in Baltimore City. Students who work in the city often talk to primary school students who rely on school lunches to eat for the day, and as such UMBC students identify food insecurity as a particularly relevant problem facing our community.
Each of our university communities has different approaches to addressing this problem. At Miami University, student organizations collaborate on this issue. One specific organization, Meals from the Heart, and Tri Delta Sorority, have worked together to prepare 500 PB&J sandwiches for a local women, men, and children homeless shelter. These types of partnerships between student organizations are useful in both engaging students in active solutions and creating a stronger effect.
At Delta Community College, there is a food pantry is located downstairs by the cafeteria in the student engagement center. The College also hosts food drives every semester to help keep the shelves stocked, and uses incentives such as pizza parties to encourage classes to donate. However, there is still a problem of ensuring that students use the food pantry. Students may feel embarrassed to approach the food pantry because they are involved in a lot of clubs and know everybody in the student engagement center. Or, it is possible that they have too much pride to get help. The College is currently working with professors and counselors to lead the students to get help. Furthermore, the students are working to discuss more discreet methods that could be used to distribute food to students. Through these discussions, the students have learned how to be more responsive to the needs of the student body and adaptable in creating initiatives to solving problems.
At UMBC, efforts to alleviate food insecurity in surrounding communities have originated from both student-led initiatives and department led programs. The Department of Asian Studies, for example, incorporated a food pantry into an existing internship program in Columbia, MD when faculty noticed that the low-income seniors in the community had difficulty accessing grocery stores. The UMBC Asian Studies Department applied for and received a grant from the BreakingGround initiative to create a Food Pantry, and has officially named the Food Pantry as an internship for their students. Alternatively, students at UMBC have been influential in creating a community garden on campus. The idea UMBC Garden originated from several students interested in community development and food policy, and through funding from BreakingGround and ProveIT, a student-managed grant program, these students were able to turn their ideas into reality. The Garden currently collaborates with faculty on campus to hold courses on sustainable development, and also has partnerships with organizations off campus. These collaborative efforts have done more than just address food insecurity, but also increase engagement and agency among UMBC students.
At Stockton University, a student survey conducted by the Student Senate (SGA) found that many students on campus were facing food insecurity. Many students were skipping meals, ran out of meals due to restrictions on their meal plan or simply could not afford all three meals every day. An initiative was then created known as the Food Assistance Program, which granted students meal vouchers to have the ability to purchase food on campus. The program also incorporated other resources to the program, such as sharing information about other pantries in the local community, as well as nutritious and healthy options on campus. This project gained institutional support and recognition, as well as financial support with a $30,000 fund to secure the program.
How is your University/College responding to the needs of food insecurity among your student population? Join us in Indianapolis to continue the conversation and work towards ending hunger for all.
Authored by the 2016 CLDE Meeting Intern Team: Monica Bustinza, junior, University of Miami (Fla.); Angelo Kapp, sophomore and vice president of Citizens In Action, Delta College (Mich.); Maryam Sarhan, junior and student trustee, Stockton University (N.J.); and Manisha Vepa, sophomore and Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar, University of Maryland Baltimore County