How To Combat Food Insecurity On College Campuses Near You

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It's no secret that between tuition, books, housing, and other campus fees, college in the U.S. can cost a lot of money. And these expenses could be hindering students from using what money they do have to pay for basic necessities like food. According to a new survey from the California Student Aid Commission, that's especially the case for students in the Golden State. Whether this affects you directly or not, there are ways you can help combat food insecurity on college campuses around the country.

The survey included input from more than 150,000 college students attending University of California schools and California State Universities, according to U.S. News. Students who took part in the survey were asked questions to measure how they felt about their ability to cover living expenses after paying for tuition and books. According to the results, approximately 35% of students were food insecure, or didn't have consistent access to healthy meals. And this problem extends far outside of California. A broader study conducted by Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab determined that 36% of college students around the nation are suffering from food insecurity.

But like all other issues, the smallest steps can make big differences. And if you're looking to help students in college towns around you, here are four ways you can help fight food insecurity.

1. Find A Local Food Pantry

Seeking out and alerting others of food pantries in the area is a great way to help those in need find free groceries. Once you find a food pantry near you, spread the word and help others find it too.

You can also reach out to colleges and food pantries to see if they can come up with partnerships to make sure there's always enough food stocked for both students and other residents in need. For example, the College & University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) is a national program that helps students on college campuses either set up food bank programs or improve the ones that already exist.

2. Donate Food

Food pantries in college towns don't always receive all the resources they need to keep residents and students fed. You can help pantries stay in-stock by donating food items they'd be willing to take. If you're not sure what local food banks or pantries accept, ask in advance. It'll save you the trouble of bringing something that won't be accepted, and also make you aware so that you can tell others who wish to donate too.

3. Reach Out To Colleges

Universities are often eager to find ways to improve the lives and experiences of their students. And while it may be difficult to find programs set up by universities or colleges that are specifically meant to help those suffering from food insecurity, it's not impossible.

For example, Wilkes University in Pennsylvania is allowing students to fill out anonymous forms to determine their level of food insecurity and what they might need to stock their food banks with. If these programs don't exist at colleges near you, get in touch with school officials and let them know just how many students in the U.S. are going hungry right now.

4. Promote Financial Literacy

A study conducted by the University of Arkansas, the University of Southern California, and the RAND Corporation in 2016 suggested there's a connection between financial literacy and food security. The study showed that families who exhibited more financial literacy, in terms of their understanding of budget and spending, were less likely to exhibit signs of food insecurity.

By working with colleges and other programs that promote and teach financial literacy workshops, you can help students learn how to budget. Although financial literacy on its own won't stop food insecurity from taking place, it's a step in the right direction.

Food insecurity on college campuses can't be solved by any one person alone, but local efforts can and do make a difference.