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Many College Students Face Food Insecurity

About one in three college students face food insecurity, and the rate is even higher among community-college students, according to Wisconsin HopeLab. (Daphnee Marie/Twenty20)
About one in three college students face food insecurity, and the rate is even higher among community-college students, according to Wisconsin HopeLab. (Daphnee Marie/Twenty20)
August 3, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – Many college students in Utah will be heading back to class later this month - and juggling high college costs and low-wage jobs, there is growing concern nationwide that this group doesn't always have enough to eat.

More than a third of college students face food insecurity this year, according to a survey by survey by Wisconsin HopeLab of more than 40,000 students around the country. Another survey of Utah State University students found similar levels of hunger on that campus.

Gina Cornia, executive director of the group Utahns Against Hunger, says those numbers indicate a problem more serious than the old "starving college student" stereotype.

"Between tuition and books, and transportation and all of those things, that food budget becomes the thing that's the most flexible," she says.

Utahns Against Hunger offers an online toolkit for college campuses looking to help students access healthy meals. It includes information on government food assistance and encourages establishing hunger-fighting advocacy programs on campus.

The University of Utah, Utah State, Salt Lake Community College, and a number of schools across the state now offer on-campus food pantries for students in need. Cornia says those resources are important since, to qualify for SNAP benefits or food stamps, people generally must work an average of 20 hours a week.

"A young person coming right out of high school, they're single, and in school full-time, they're most likely not eligible for SNAP," she notes.

She adds that work-study jobs on campus do count toward SNAP eligibility, and students who have young children may be eligible for additional benefits.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - UT