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College Hunger No Laughing Matter: Part 1 of 2

In a survey of four-year college students, 5% said that they had gone without food for a full day because they couldn't afford it. (Matthew Hunt/Flickr)
In a survey of four-year college students, 5% said that they had gone without food for a full day because they couldn't afford it. (Matthew Hunt/Flickr)
June 3, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jokes about starving college students relying on ramen noodles, rice and other cheap foods are no laughing matter, as recent research uncovers the broad scope of campus hunger.

In a survey released by Temple University, 45% of student respondents said they had been food insecure in the past month, meaning they were unsure of the source of their next meal.

Marisa Vernon White, associate provost, enrollment management and student success at Lorain County Community College, explains increased access to higher education means more students entering college with unique situations.

"We have this image in our mind of the college student who's living in a residence hall who has a food plan, whose parents are sending them money on the weekends,” she states. “And that's just not necessarily the case."

Lorain County Community College offers The Commodore Cupboard food pantry for students and community members.

Otterbein University in Westerville also offers similar assistance through its The Promise House, where Americorps VISTA member Jaymi Green works with volunteers and students.

"It's hard to study when you're hungry,” she states. “It's hard to keep yourself motivated and stay up later to finish a paper if you are just constantly thinking, 'My stomach is grumbling, I'm hungry, I haven't eaten today.'”

Of those surveyed, 7% of two-year students and 5% of four-year students skipped eating for a full day because they couldn't afford food.

At least a dozen Ohio universities and community colleges have food pantries.

The average cost for a full year tuition at a public university is roughly $25,000.

Stacey Rusterholz, assistant director for community engagement with The Promise House at Otterbein University, notes that while hunger is more common among students from low-income families, the price tag of higher education is also a factor.

"College is really expensive even if you have tuition discounts or scholarships there's a lot of additional costs that go with college, whether its books or food or organizational fees, things like that," she states.

At Lorain County Community College Sarah Hyde-Pinner is coordinator for the Commodore Cupboard Food Pantry. She adds that food assistance is also available during the summer months for students and their families.

"You see an uptick in summer from students who are parents who have school age children at home who may not be getting lunch at school and they may get connected with summer feeding programs but there is still a gap in what they need."

This the first part of a two-part series that looks into the response to college hunger. Part 2 runs Tuesday

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH