College student hunger: How access to food can impact grades, mental health

Person eating sandwich and mac and cheese


Just a few years ago, the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which helps schools establish food pantries, had 184 members. By early 2019, though, the number had more than tripled to 700-plus members.

As tuition rises and the other costs of college go up, campus administrators are forced to face a troubling reality: Many college students don’t get enough to eat. In response, hundreds of schools — from community colleges to Ivy League universities — have opened food pantries or stores selling subsidized groceries. Many students ages 18 to 49 are not eligible for the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

At Cornell University, the student-run Anabel’s Grocery attracted about 2,000 unique customers within the first several months, according to the student newspaper. The store offers “low-cost groceries for all Cornell students and subsidies for those who qualify.” At the Knights Helping Knights Pantry at the University of Central Florida, students can pick up five free food items a day. Portland Community College opened pantries on all four of its campuses and created a co-op with free school supplies, bus passes, clothes and other items.

Academic research shows that a substantial percentage of college students experience “food insecurity,”


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