In 1946, the federal government created the National School Lunch Program. The idea was that undernourished students couldn’t not thrive nor would they be fit enough to serve if they were called for military duty, and well fed students led to a stronger nation, so the government created a plan to help feed children while they were at school. The program, introduced under president Harry Truman, was a step in the right direction to help the country as a whole, but in the decades since its introduction, not enough has changed to ensure that students aren’t hungry.
Hunger doesn’t stop when someone graduates high school, that hunger often goes on through college where thousands skip meals and go to bed hungry because they cannot afford to eat. It is a crisis in a nation of plenty, but one that has had little more than a blind eye turned in its direction. According to a study done at the University of Wisconsin in the HOPE Lab, in surveying 33,000 community college students across the United States, one third of those students go hungry. It also showed that food insecurity afflicts undergraduate students at a higher rate than the rest of the general population.
While everyone has heard jokes about starving college students, the facts are real that this affliction can lead to poor health, poor mental health, and a poor academic performance along with anxiety about food. Many are seeking a solution on a federal level, and some have offered up some interesting ideas. Amherst College has opened a dorm that is open year round so that students have access to a warm bed and food during times when school is typically not in session. California has passed legislation that mandates public colleges to go through an application process to participate in the local food assistance programs which can also help stock food pantries under the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program.
As a whole, the country is ignoring the problem, but colleges are slowing realizing they must step up to address the needs of their students. The federal government has the ability to offer more, but so far there are no plans for any mandates or assistance.
While this issue does not affect every single college student, those who are seeking a higher education and looking to be a productive member of the working world should have food to eat in order to maintain proper health and focus on their education. The University of Wisconsin found that 14 percent of community college students are homeless, which brings to light an even bigger issue. Struggling students need help to achieve success. For more information and statistics, head to Huffington Post.