Let’s talk about food insecurity

A report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last January detailed widespread rates of hunger and food insecurity on college campuses.

Food insecurity has been an underreported issue among college students – the GAO report was the first of its kind to survey colleges across the nation. Considering how many people this issue impacts, though, it’s time to raise awareness about the unspoken crisis at hand.

Defined as an inability to afford and access nutritional food, food insecurity – though different in appearance than most people’s conception of hunger – can significantly impair students’ physical, mental, and emotional health. 

The rising costs of attending university have forced many students to sacrifice nutritious meals, and instead use their money to pay for tuition, books, and housing.

The GAO report highlights current systematic limitations that exacerbate food insecurity, primarily regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and those eligible. 

It also showed that almost two million students could potentially receive SNAP benefits, but did not due to eligibility restrictions, or not knowing they were eligible in the first place. This is especially true among first-generation students and low-income families. 

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, provides low-income families with financial assistance to purchase foods essential for their households. 

Universities throughout the country are taking steps to combat this issue, including Framingham State, but a large number of people aren’t aware of services that can help.

Students don’t have to suffer in silence. 

One of these programs to help address food insecurity at FSU is the Emergency Meal Bank.

For those with meal plans, one swipe per week can be donated through the Dining Services website, allowing for those in need to get nutritious meals discreetly. 

Students in the Framingham State community may request up to five meals from the Emergency Meal Bank per semester by filling out a form through Dining Services on the FSU website.

Additionally, if five meal swipes are not enough to address a student’s food insecurity, the Dean of Students Office can meet with people in need to grant additional swipes or offer further assistance.

Beyond Framingham, college campuses throughout the country have adopted programs similar to the Emergency Meal Bank.

The Rams Resource Center (RRC), our on-campus food bank, provides toiletries and non-perishable food items to FSU students, staff, and faculty. 

Discreetly located on the first floor of West Hall, the RRC is volunteer-based and nobody who works in the RRC is not allowed to ask questions or discuss the people coming in and out.

All you need to take advantage of this is an FSU ID. It is that easy. No one will ask questions about your financial situation or judge you for needing extra help while you are struggling.

Furthermore, the Dean of Students Office can offer referrals to those who may need more assistance than the University can provide. They can refer students to additional food pantries in the surrounding area as well as organizations that can help community members in uncertain housing situations.

While a movement is underway to promote college food pantries and reduce student hunger across the country, there are still individuals who are struggling. 

As a university, and as a community, it is vital we acknowledge no two students are in the same situation. 

Sometimes the best step we can take is to give back to the people who need our help the most – and maybe when they are back on their feet, they will pay it forward.

Together, we can create a community full of hope thanks to the generosity of those around us and set an example for communities such as ours.

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