How are students struggling with their dining choices?
The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the issue related to food insecurity amongst university students. However, even before the pandemic, an increasing number of students have been reporting food insecurity. It is significant because of the increasing tuition and living costs and reducing state support for students. Moreover, there is the privatization of food provision on college campuses simultaneously.
While this stands as a significant problem worldwide, it is a specific issue in the United States. Here, there is a significant portion of international students. There is a relative lack of cheaper options for subsidized food on most American university campuses. Students also face a lower level of awareness that surrounds the issue.
An Insight into Food Insecurity
In a recent survey, it was reported that around 36 percent of students did not get enough food to eat on university or college campuses. A team of researchers conducted the survey. The team assessed data from over 45,000 students across community colleges and universities. The reports came up with evidence surrounding a quarter of students being highly food insecure. They felt being forced to reduce the size of the respective portions or cut meals altogether –leading to weight loss and poor nutrition.
Another study report suggested that food insecurity, in general, is quite a common issue amongst international students. Students commonly reported compromising the overall nutritional quality and diversity of the respective diets due to the lack of information, time, or money. Some said that they even had to skip meals in some instances.
The situation of the ongoing pandemic has accelerated the notion of food insecurity for many international students. Several students have been reported to be ‘vegetarians by necessity rather than choice.’ Others preferred intermittent fasting as an effective strategy to ensure weight loss after enrolling at a university in the nation.
Why Does Food Insecurity Take Place?
There is no denying that tuition fees and living costs in the United States are pretty high. As per a recent study report, it was revealed that students at community colleges would end up spending an average of $11,970 on the room, tuition fees, and board for every year.
Another study reported that around 40 percent of students are insecure. A team of researchers highlights that hunger at universities is not any new issue. It is due to increasing college costs and improper financial aid packages within the system. Competition for ensuring part-time jobs is also relatively high, making it difficult for students to ensure self-funding.
As more lower-income students are attending university with the help of needs-based grants and scholarships, it is clear that financial aid is mostly not enough for making ends meet for most students.
Steps to be Undertaken by Universities
Universities have primarily acknowledged and addressed the concern of food insecurity. One of the cost-effective initiatives that universities can partake in is to partner with a payment processer like sVang that can empower universities to expand their dining dollars programs to off-campus restaurants, enabling students to access a variety of food options at an affordable price. If dining dollar programs are expanded and become the avenue for off-campus spending, more dollars will be committed to dining dollar programs, and students will be happier.