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The hidden crisis on campus

September 5, 2018 12:49 am

Columbia-Greene Community College is way ahead of the curve by introducing an on-campus food pantry 10 years before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s program to post food pantries on all state college campuses.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that such a program is needed on college campuses at all.

Despite living in the richest nation on Earth, despite recent declines in the unemployment rates of Greene and Columbia counties, despite the savings realized by attending a two-year school, students in 2018 are going to college hungry. And as student aid declines, the problem is likely to get even worse.

Thirty-six percent of students at 66 surveyed colleges and universities do not get enough to eat, according to a first-of-its-kind survey released in April by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, as reported by the Washington Post News Service.

The report, which is the first to include students from two-year, four-year, private and public universities, found that nearly 1 in 10 community college students have gone a whole day without eating in the past month. That number was 6 percent among university students, according to the Washington Post News Service article.

Researchers blame ballooning college costs, inadequate aid packages and growing enrollment among low-income students — as well as some colleges’ unwillingness to admit they have a hunger problem. College hunger is not a new issue, researchers caution, but it appears to be growing worse.

The report is based on data from 43,000 students at 66 schools and used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s assessment for measuring hunger, according to the Washington Post story. That means the thousands of students it classifies as having “low food security” aren’t avoiding the dining hall to save money or slim down. They’re skipping meals, or eating smaller meals, because they don’t have enough money for food.

C-GCC officials are doing the best they can. The food pantry is open to all enrolled students so there is no stigma when students come in for food they need. Shame is another reason students go hungry on campus. The C-GCC pantry has granola and power bars, cups of fruit and cereal, and canned goods. The pantry has been used so much by students that management can’t keep up with demand.

The Washington Post calls hunger “the hidden crisis on college campuses.” We’re seeing the signs at our hometown community college. That’s food for thought as the fall semester goes forward.