Food insecurity is a significant issue facing thousands of students in California community colleges and universities. While the available data provides only a partial picture, it is clear that the problem is widespread and needs urgent attention. Collecting precise data on food insecurity can be challenging due to the cost of research and the limited participation of colleges and universities.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by #RealCollege, which included 57 schools and approximately 40,000 respondents, nearly 50% of California community college and university students reported being food insecure in the past 30 days. Furthermore, 60% of respondents reported being 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. This translates to almost a quarter-million students struggling with this issue. The University of California also reported high numbers, with 19% of its students missing meals. Additionally, over 50% of students in California community colleges estimated that they do not have enough food to eat.
Many factors lead to food insecurity, including low-paying jobs, limited financial aid, and family and economic statuses. However, the root cause of this issue is mainly related to housing. Finding affordable housing is increasingly difficult, with simple rooms for rent averaging between $800 to $1200 per month. Monthly essentials such as books, supplies, transportation, and utilities can reach up to $300, and food costs around $300 per month. This amounts to a 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, an average of 40% of California community college students still experienced food insecurity. However, the pandemic has likely worsened the situation, as students face additional challenges such as job losses, reduced working hours, and limited access to on-campus resources.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has highlighted this issue and allowed almost all colleges to divert funds to launch campus pantries that support students in need. 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 have also seen an unusual flood of applications, with many of them coming from students and their families. The pandemic's consequences on college food insecurity are not yet fully known, but the available statistics suggest that the problem is escalating beyond what we could ever have imagined.
In conclusion, food insecurity in California community colleges and universities is a severe issue that needs immediate attention. More research and data are needed to fully understand the problem's extent, and relevant solutions should be implemented to ensure that all students have access to sufficient food and housing.
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This Blog was Prepared by Student LunchBox:
Student LunchBox (SLB) is a nonprofit charitable organization committed to fighting food insecurity among college students. Established in 2020, SLB emerged with a clear mission to eradicate campus hunger and foster academic success. At Student LunchBox, our vision is to create a future where every college student has access to nutritious food, empowering them to thrive academically, achieve their full potential, and succeed in their educational journey.