According to research conducted at California State University, one in five college students go hungry, and one in ten students are hovering over the border of homelessness.
Cal State, which is the largest four-year university system in the country, has held a conference to address the issues. The conference included more than 150 administrators, researchers, students, and advocates. In addition to creating new programs, their goal is to educate students on the options available to them, since more than half of the respondents said that they didn’t know what they could do about these issues.
In 2015, CSU chancellor Tim White commissioned a study on food insecurity and homelessness among the system’s students. A year later, results showed that a large number of students deal with these issues, so he decided to extend the study for an extra two years. The goals is to find out how widespread these problems are, and to then identify the best ways for the school to intervene.
White recalls seeing students sleeping in parked cars on his way to school. He said:
I would go, “Ya know, there’s something wrong here,” but we didn’t shine a light on it then as we are now.
I think it’s touched a humanity chord in our students and our administrators.
According to Adolfo Guzman-Lopez of KPCC, White lived in county-supported housing and used food stamps (now known as Cal Fresh) when he was a student at Fresno State.
He also said:
We’re going to find solutions that we can take to scale. Getting this right is something that we just simply have to do.
While Cal State is the first public university to conduct such a study, it’s not the first to have a conference on the issues, reports Tyler Kingkade of the Huffington Post. The HOPE Lab, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, held a similar gathering this April. They surveyed 4,000 students at 10 community colleges and found similar results: one in five struggled with hunger and 13% were homeless.
Cal State schools are now setting up food pantries and programs to help out students who need something to eat. 11 of 23 campuses set up options for those who need food, including pantries and programs that will help students apply for safety net benefits, according to RT.
CSU-Long Beach has a program called “Feed a Need,” which allows students to donate a meal to another student who may need it. They also offer students emergency grants, hotel vouchers, meal assistance, and counseling, reports Rosanna Xia of the Los Angeles Times. The goal is to help students secure jobs on campus so that they can improve their conditions long-term.
Fresno State has created an app that notifies students when catered events have leftovers in an effort to reduce food waste as well as curb hunger. The campus also has a pantry with food and hygiene products that measures more than 2,000 square feet.
Rashida Crutchfield, a researcher at Cal State Long Beach, said:
I don’t think it should be normal for students to experience homelessness or food insecurity, but I do think accessing support for these issues should feel normal.