Thousands of college students nationwide are going hungry.

“It’s definitely, unfortunately, a national issue that seems to be growing,” said Cecilia Herles, faculty adviser for the University of Georgia Campus Kitchen. “Some of the factors for students in terms of food insecurity have to do with financial reasons. The rising cost of education and the cost of living seems to contribute to this.”

Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

According to a report titled “Hunger in America 2014,” students are finding it difficult to balance education costs, including the rising cost of college tuition and increased student loan debt. Additionally, Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks, found about 10 percent of its clients are students.

BeAna Stone said she has observed that many UGA students prioritize paying their bills over paying for groceries.

“Personally, I always put my rent and my bills way ahead of food,” said the senior magazine journalism and women’s studies major from Acworth. “Sounds terrible, but it happens every month just because I live with a few other people, so I don’t want that to affect them. So I know for me, towards the end of the month, I’ll be a vegetarian but not on purpose. And I know a lot of my friends do the same thing.”

At UGA, programs such as the UGA Student Food Pantry and the UHC Nutrition Kitchen cooking class are available to help students who suffer from food insecurity. However, Herles said she has not had many students disclose to her that they are dealing with it.

“Maybe part of the issue is that they’re not comfortable coming forward because there’s a lot of stigmas around this,” Herles said. “I think that they also don’t know what to do about it. They don’t know where to go. They don’t know how to get resources.”

Food pantries are a growing trend on college campuses, Herles said.

In 2011, UGA’s Panhellenic Council opened the UGA Student Food Pantry, which is now located in the Tate Student Center.

“There’s no judgment,” said Claudia Shamp, director of the UGA Greek Life Office. “We don’t really evaluate if people need the pantry or not, you just come in and show your ID and you can get what you want.”

Shamp said the pantry had an average of 134 weekly visitors in the spring semester of 2014.

Similarly, the University Health Center hosts a Nutrition Teaching Kitchen, which educates students how to cook nutritious meals on a budget. The class costs $5 per student.

Beyond eating, however, food insecurity can have negative effects on a student’s overall academic performance.

“It has a lot of repercussions,” said Leila Choucair, co-president of UGA Campus Kitchen. “Most of these are obviously going to be related to physical and mental health problems. If you’re not getting the nutrients you need regularly, I think that’s definitely going to affect your class performance.”

Stone said this is a problem that needs to be addressed further.

“I don’t think people think of it as a big issue,” Stone said. “It’s just, ‘Oh, the college struggle — you don’t’ have food.’ But that shouldn’t really be a thing. I would like to see it changed.”

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(2) comments

Vanessa21

Unfortunately, student loan debt impacts all the spheres of life. A few days ago I’ve read the article that many people with college debt still live with parents because they can’t avoid to rent or to buy an apartment. It’s hard to live like this. I can’t imagine what it means to save money on food and to be hungry because you have a loan to pay off. Many people also use quick cash advance loan service to stay afloat because their income is very small and they can’t even pay bills. It’s a very big problem of American economy, something is definitely wrong because so many people are struggling.

tseim

A long time ago I attended college and grad school for my Masters. During my whole academic career( if I may describe it so) I never worked less than two jobs and most of the time three. I valued the education so much there was no sacrifice involved. I just did not have time for anything except school and work, and eating kept me going in both, and i decided I could catch up on sleep when I got old and retired. It amazes me there does not seem to be the same value placed on education and the responsibility for getting that education is the student's . I have heard a number of students say they do not have time to work, yet they have time to watch TV, go out for drinks, play video games or social media tillall hours of the night, but have no time for working to pay for THEIR education. Please....

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