opinion   |   oped

Food insecurity is a serious problem



The person sitting next to you in class may not be getting enough food.  

Findings from a recent study from Wisconsin Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education Lab about college students’ eating and living habits may be surprising for our parents, but they certainly aren't shocking for students to read. 

According to HOPE Lab, 36 percent of students at 66 surveyed colleges and universities were food insecure, or worried about running out of food for 30 days leading up to the survey.  

The Editorial Board is not surprised by this statistic, but we are outraged this is a problem across the nation, as well as one that affects us at IU.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of education policy and sociology at the University of Wisconsin who helped conduct the survey, found that students experiencing food insecurity can be classified into one of two groups — those who were in poverty before they began college and had likely dealt with food insecurity before, and those who were in the lower-middle class before they started college and are likely experiencing food insecurity for the first time. 

The Washington Post interviewed Washington University student Caleb Torres who said he sometimes got by on one can of SpaghettiOs a day. 

Caitlin Dewey from Washington Post wrote that the combination of inflated college costs and the rise of low-income students attending college will inherently create issues with affording housing and food costs. 

Food insecurity can also be further complicated by the housing and food markets, both of which have inflated by nearly 56 percent over the past two decades. Adjusted for inflation, the median home price in 1940 would only have been $30,600 in 2000 dollars. Instead, it was $119,600. This increased cost for home purchase will be passed on to renters. 

According to Rent Jungle, an online apartment housing search engine, as of March 2018, the average price of rent in Bloomington is at an all-time high, $1195 per month. One bedroom apartments in Bloomington rent for $858 a month on average, up 4.66 percent from last year and two bedroom apartment rents average $1187, up 6.23 percent. 

Minimum wage in Indiana is still $7.25 an hour. IU has graciously upped campus minimum wage to $10.15 an hour, but that isn’t enough.

If a student attends school full-time and works a part-time job through IU — which is no more than 22 hours a week — they would only be earning around $900 a month before taxes. 

That doesn’t cover the average monthly cost if a student lives alone. IU housing is also not the cheapest option. The cost of living in a standard dorm is around $680 per month, and that's not including the meal plan

Because of these costs, many students live in off campus, have roommates and split the cost several ways. 

If the same student who works maximum part-time hours for IU lived with two other students, their average monthly rent cost could be a little under $400 a month. There goes half of the student’s paycheck and that's before utilities or groceries. 

It is no wonder many students have to scrape by on minimum food in order to make ends meet.  

Two members of the Editorial Board, Anne Anderson and Miranda Garbaciak, both say they depend on free meals they receive at work to stretch out their food at home.

While it is great there are jobs offering these options in Bloomington, college campuses can do more.

Services like the on-campus C-Stores and campus cafes could lower prices for students who cannot afford or do not use I-Bucks. This would provide students with food on campus for a cheaper price.  

As of right now, only the Indiana Memorial Union provides food that does not have the high markup which is common for RPS locations. 

Some students stay on campus all day for classes and cannot access cheap food because they can’t afford meal plans.

IU's own food pantry, the Crimson Cupboard was founded to help fight food insecurity or "hidden hunger" on campus. 

The smallest meal plan costs $2900 for the school year, and gives you about $12 of food a day. This does not leave any extra I-Bucks at the 60 percent discount

According to the National Center for Education statistics, 48.1 percent of public school students qualify for free or reduced meals. This economic need isn't eliminated once they get onto campus.  

There are many issues regarding food on college campuses, but if just a few changes were made with low-income students in mind, IU would see changes and happier students. 

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