Campus Hunger: 36% of College Students Don’t Get Enough to Eat

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Over a third of college students aren’t getting enough to eat, according to a survey of more than 43,000 students at 66 US colleges and universities.

The data was collected by the Wisconsin HOPE lab. And while researchers say the survey wasn’t designed to be representative of colleges nationwide, it is believed to be the best national estimate available — and it raises important questions about college access and success.

When it comes to hunger on campus, low-income students are hardest hit, according to Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher-education policy at Temple University (PA) and the lead author of the report.

“It really undermines their ability to do well in school,” she told NPR. “Their grades suffer, their test scores appear to be lower, and overall, their chances of graduating are slimmer. They can barely escape their conditions of poverty long enough to complete their degrees.”

In many cases, the grants and scholarships students assemble to pay for higher education don’t sufficiently cover college costs, the report notes. In response, a growing number of schools are opening food pantries to assist students in need. According to The Washington Post, more than 600 institutions now belong to the College and University Food Bank Alliance. In 2012, only 12 campuses were members.

“Not a single university administrator wanted to acknowledge this was an issue five years ago,” Rachel Sumekh, chief executive at the LA-based Swipe Out Hunger, told the Post. “But the numbers are amazing. It helps us make the case to universities that they need to do something about this.”

Read the full report and learn more about efforts to address student hunger on campus.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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