Freshman Findings: Nutrition can affect learning

Since elementary school, students have always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Now these same students are in college and not only missing breakfast, but lunch and dinner as well. There is always the cliché that college students survive on ramen, and although we have turned this into humor, there is truth behind it. Some students have little to no choice but to live off instant foods.

Defined by the Oxford Dictionary, food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. The number of college students who experience food insecurity is climbing rapidly. College and university administrators nationwide are beginning to notice the increase of undergraduates being part of the millions of Americans who face the absence of resources to acquire nutritional foods.

According to Higher Education Today, the national nonprofit network Feeding America provides food
assistance to 46.5 million individuals. Approximately half (49.3 percent) are part of an institute and have to choose between allocating money toward educational expenses and food. The University of California found that about 25 percent of their 150,000 undergraduate students skipped meals in order to save money. In 2016, studies also showed that food insecurities were more prevalent among students of color compared to their white counterparts, and this occured at both two-year and four-year schools. Because the demographics of college attendees are beginning to shift, more of today’s students are considered “non-traditional.” Many tend to be older first-generation students or undergraduate adult students who manage part- or full-time jobs while trying to receive a degree.

Food insecurity doesn’t just affect a student’s health, but also their academic performance. The shortage of food can cause lack of concentration, focus and energy, in addition to missed classes, lower test scores, poor grades and even dropouts. Food insecurity is also said to cause emotional distress. A college student is already preoccupied with financial obstacles and academics — adding in hunger can result in a negative impact on their experience at school.

Nationwide, colleges and universities are recognizing the incline in food deficiency among students and are taking action. Last fall, students from two leading historically black colleges, Spelman and Morehouse, went on a hunger strike pushing their schools to allow students to donate unused meal plans to those who needed them. Colleges and universities are opening up food pantries, food vouchers and assistance programs to aid their students.

Many students who deal with food insecurity face housing uncertainties as well, and some food pantries are also supplying personal care items, such as coats and other clothing. Although colleges are beginning to expand their aid toward preventing food insecurity, there still is an underlying problem; college is becoming more expensive. Quick fixes are helpful for the students who need food now but they are not long-term beneficial solutions and colleges need to take more responsibility. Living expenses are educational expenses.

The Rider Pantry is located next to Daly Dining Hall in the Joseph Vona Academic Annex, Room 23. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

—Quran Hansford

Freshman journalism major

Printed in the 2/14/18 issue. 

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