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  • Karlen Nurijanyan

CAMPUS FOOD INSECURITY IN CALIFORNIA - PROBLEM STATISTICS

Updated: Jan 24


Thousands of students are a few missed paychecks away from fighting something terrible that has lingered in California community colleges and universities for years; food insecurity. The numbers in this report are only part of a greater picture, as dozens of colleges did not participate in given surveys or did not conduct their own.


Little information is available to provide a more precise estimation of how many students are currently struggling with food insecurity. The reasons for this phenomenon are that collecting such data can be extremely expensive, as we are talking about hundreds of colleges and universities and thousands of students who may or may not participate in such research.


The idea behind providing you with these numbers is to underline and acknowledge that California is facing a significant issue when it comes to higher education. Furthermore, organizations such as Student LunchBox helps students fight what has been rooted in our education system for years.

"It is time to deny that being broke in college is acceptable and concede this issue is far more alarming".

A 2016 #RealCollege Survey collected data from 57 schools with a 5% participation rate aggregating approximately 40,000 respondents attending California community colleges and universities.

  • Nearly 50% of students reported being food insecure in the past 30 days

  • 60% were housing insecure in the previous year and

  • 19% reported being homeless in the past year

Another study conducted by California State University in 2018 showed that approximately 41% of the school's 480,000-student population reported food insecurity. That is almost a quarter-million students struggling with this issue. The University of California did not fall behind with its numbers: 19% of its students were missing meals. Lastly, California community colleges have estimated that over 50% of students do not have enough food to eat.

Many circumstances lead to food insecurity, including low-paying jobs, lack of jobs, limited financial aid, family and economic statuses, and more. However, the issue behind survival revolves mainly around housing.


Finding housing has never been so difficult. Simple rooms for rent (not the entire apartment) average between $800 to $1200. Monthly essentials, including books, supplies, transportation and utilities, may reach up to $300, and food is around $300 per month. That makes for an average conservative sum of $1800.


In a 2019 report by the California Student Aid Commission’s 2018-2019 Student Expenses and Resources Survey (SEARS), a sample of 150,000 college students from four-year institutions reported having concerns extending beyond college tuition. Reports have found that students pay over $2000 per month beyond tuition and fees on items including room, board, books, transportation, and other personal expenses.


Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, data from various sources demonstrated that an average of 40% of California community college students still experience food insecurity.

In the past seven months, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has underlined this issue and allowed almost all colleges to divert funds to launch campus pantries that support students in need. Based on the data provided by EDSources, out of 115 community colleges, 46 already have campus pantry programs, and 26 are currently operating despite the outbreak and campus closures.


Local food banks that keep their operations current receive an unusual flood of applications, and many of them are from students and their families.


A limited amount of information is available about the pandemic and its consequences on college food insecurity. However, based on the statistics from previous years, we can confidently proclaim the issue is escalating beyond what we could ever have imagined.

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