College is supposed to be a time of growth, education, and experience. But a recent, first-of-its-kind study found that 36% of students from 66 colleges and universities do not get enough to eat from university dining services—and a similar number of students lack a secure place to live. Furthermore, 6% of university students have gone an entire day without eating a meal.
College’s Hidden Crisis
Hunger among college students may not be a totally new issue, but a staggering number of students have recently admitted that they do not get enough to eat through university dining services. Researchers in the study pointed to rising college costs, including tuition, room, and board; inadequate aid packages; and increasing enrollment among low-income students.
Low-income students in particular struggle. With the average cost of college hovering around $25,000/year, scholarships, grants, and minimum wage jobs are not always sufficient for making ends meet.
From 2012 to 2018, membership in the College and University Food Bank Alliance has grown from 15 to over 600, proving the need for food pantries to be included in university dining services.
Other solutions implemented by colleges include:
- Dining plans that cover more meals or offer low-cost options
- Dining halls that offer free vouchers to students in need
- Dining halls that partner with nonprofits to redistribute unused meals
However, many advocates note that these efforts aren’t doing enough to solve the issue. Among their suggestions for improvement are increasing student access to food stamp programs and evaluating the financial aid process and how the government assesses “need.” Their hope is that no student will ever need to choose between spending money on doing laundry or eating a meal.
Anything that colleges and universities can do to reduce the cost of college for individual students ultimately helps. This study clearly demonstrates that your institution can’t afford to waste anything.
In order to help reduce wasteful spending, especially in university dining services, through our RevenueVision technology, we are helping our campus partners track food costs and examine food waste. Tracking helps you identify which types of food are being wasted; then, you could eliminate serving that type of food or potentially reduce the amount of time being spent in food preparation.
If food waste is controlled, you could offer meals at a cheaper price, which in turn increases the affordability and accessibility of quality meals.
Tracking food waste and costs may only be a part of the overall solution, but if this research has taught us anything, it’s that something needs to change on campus—and fast.