Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
As a student living on your own, whether it be for the first time in the dorms on campus, or off campus with roommates, it’s normal to wonder where your next meal is coming from. It is normal to have concerns over money or to worry if you have enough swipes on your meal plan to eat two or three times a day. However, food insecurity is a silent epidemic that affects almost every person at some time in their life and currently, is affecting college students aged 18-24 more harshly.
Before COVID, about 13% of households who consisted of college-aged people experienced food insecurity. Furthermore, it was reported that 59% of students had experienced some form of food insecurity at some point during their college career. Given the current state of our economy, due to both COVID and the “aftershock,” one can safely assume that these numbers are trending upwards. Just under a year ago, The Providence Journal discovered that 22% of Brown University students skipped a meal due to financial issues. URI’s student food bank, located within St. Augustine’s Church, distributed 8,968 pounds of food last year as well.
Contrary to popular belief, and contrary to the popular mindset of the “college experience,” one can not survive on Ramen noodles and water alone. Although students can frequent campus events that serve food, that’s only a temporary solution for a not-so-temporary problem.
The reasons for food insecurity are many: financial troubles, housing troubles for those not living on campus, work obligations, family obligations, loan debt, not having learned how to budget, physical disabilities, no access to a car, etc. Even though some off-campus students may be eligible for SNAP benefits, only 20% of students receive them. Some students don’t know they are eligible, and others are not sure how to navigate the system.
Not having access to food consistently creates a cycle of detrimental effects on both the health of the student and the future of their education. Stress and depression become more relevant, it becomes more difficult to concentrate, especially when hungry, and when a student does come into money, they may opt to eat food that’s cheaper and not necessarily nutritious.
What is being done to combat this problem? At some RI colleges and universities, there are programs in place where students can donate their extra meal swipes to others through the Share a Swipe for Hope program. Some schools, such as URI and CCRI, run food pantries for their students. Others host weekly farmer’s markets. Johnson and Wales has developed a food recovery program, where their culinary students prepare, package, and in some cases, deliver, food that they have made as part of their class.
Here at RIC, we have the Food 4 Thought Pantry, where students can fill out a form and schedule food pick up. Our food pantry is open to all RIC students with a valid student ID. They stock items such as pasta and pasta sauce, canned goods, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, and other non-perishables as well as toiletries. The Food 4 Thought Pantry also hosts work study opportunities. They’re located in L4L, Adams Library Level 1. Rest assured, your privacy will be maintained by the non-judgmental staff. For more information, or to apply for a food pick up, please visit https://www.ric.edu/department-directory/learning-life/food-4-thought-pantry.