Students going broke and hungry?

MNSU students experiencing food insecurity as some go through academic hurdles

Maria Ly
Staff Writer

Food insecurity has been a prevalent problem within MNSU for years with nearly two-thirds of students claiming they face food insecurity in some certain way. 

Food insecurity, defined by the Department of Sociology at MNSU, is a lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable food. A recent online survey conducted on campus by students in the spring semester of 2018, in the “Sociology in Action” class, shows that MNSU exceeds the national average of students facing food insecurity. 

According to the study, 64 percent of 260 randomly selected students surveyed claimed they face some sort of food insecurity. 

Problems such as financial burdens further increase the likelihood of food insecurity in a student, where they often must choose between food and other expenses such as housing and school. Sixty percent of students with high food insecurity reported that they had to choose between food and school expenses, often choosing school.

Another problem amongst food insecure students is a lack of transportation and accessibility to grocery stores. Going to the grocery store must be planned in advance as bus schedules only run at certain times and a single trip to the store could take between two to four hours. Certain items are difficult to carry, with some bus stops far from their home, which reduces the amount of groceries a student purchases. 

Students, in order to save money, typically cut back on how many meals they eat a day. Many of these students have substantial debt and loans. Out of the 260 students surveyed, 48 percent claimed that the food they had didn’t last and they could not afford to buy more and 8 percent claimed they’ve had days where they did not eat at all. 

A student interviewed after the survey stated, “I can’t focus in class when my stomach won’t quit growling. So I drink a lot of water and chew it before I swallow it to trick my brain to think that I’m eating.” 

Many students with food insecurity also have trouble focusing in class, with 39 percent of students claiming that hunger prevents them from performing well academically. Negative impacts also include: a lower GPA, difficulty attending class, paying attention, suspending their education, suicidal thoughts, and increased levels of anxiety and depression.

Cole Denisen, a graduate student with the department of counseling and student personnel, and one of the students involved in conducting the study works with many food insecure students, “A lot of the students I work with, they’ve got it rough. They’re working full time jobs, they’re trying to go to school full time, they’ve got to make sure their bills get paid on time. That they’ve got enough gas to make it to class every single day. And yet they feel ashamed, because they feel like they’re failing, that they’re not doing enough to make it here on a daily basis. I don’t think they’re failing as students. I think we’re failing to take care of their needs.”

There are many resources available to students facing food insecurity. The campus cupboard located in the Crossroads Church is available on Tuesdays from noon to 3 p.m. There are also Tuesday one buck lunches in the church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If students can’t make those times bread and sandwiches are usually placed outside of the campus cupboard for students to take. 

The university also has emergency grant program for students in financial need. There are occasional free farmers markets throughout the year, which offer free/discounted produce for students. Besides on campus resources, there are also food shelters located across Mankato such as the Echo Food Shelf.

However, even though there are available resources for food insecure students, many students are unaware of them with only two people surveyed claiming they know and have used resources such as the campus cupboard.

Bill Landis, the senator for graduate studies in the student government is working on bringing awareness and advocating about food insecurity, “When we’re talking about food insecurity, we’re talking about the basic needs of students and as far as the university and student relationship goes we need to address the issues. Knowing that 64 percent of the student body is experiencing food insecurity, it is a striking number, and I think it’s something not a lot of people are talking about. Bringing it to the student government and introducing the issue there can help get that coordination and help show the administration and the campus community that this is an issue that we know about, that we care about, and we’re working on fixing.”

Through efforts such as bringing the issue to the student government, writing about it in the newspaper, talking to classes, putting up posters, newsletters, tabling at the CSU, bringing awareness to the students is slowly but surely happening. 

Denisen thinks no one should face food insecurity especially college students, “Starving should never be part of the college experience. I don’t care where you come from, what resources may or may not be available to you. Starving should not be part of your experience while you’re here at the university.”

Feature photo by Maria Ly | MSU Reporter.

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