Insecurity in the United States of America
Almost two and a half years have passed since the Covid-19 pandemic started, and it has consumed our lives ever since. Many other issues have been pushed aside or forgotten about; one of said issues is the invisible food insecurity epidemic and the detrimental consequences it has left on the United States food landscape. While the overall number of food-insecure Americans has significantly increased, college students specifically have been disproportionately affected by this community health issue.
Food Insecurity among College Students
Food insecurity among college students has been significantly increased during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the high rates of unemployment, university campus closures, etc. From the already high 30% that has been recorded prior to the pandemic in the year 2020, Hope Center has discovered that the percentage of food-insecure college students has gone up to 38%. The inability to afford food has consequences not only on educational performance but also on overall health. Forced to buy cheap, refined, and processed foods, food-insecure students are at a higher risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, food insecurity can also impact mental health and possibly cause anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
Dealing With and Addressing Food Insecurity in College Students?
How do we tackle a problem that affects over one-third of college students? How do we direct the one-third of the food that is being wasted toward the food-insecure college students?
First and foremost, on a macro-level, just as we must fill out the U.S. Census to make sure the funding goes to the jeopardized communities, we must also take the Household Pulse Survey (HPS). The HPS acts as a primer and a prep step in painting the food landscape. It collects data about the experiences in the household during the pandemic taking “food sufficiency” into account. By completing the survey, we, the people, ensure that the issue of food insecurity is recorded and that the response and planning will be carried out accordingly.
Community efforts and community organizing are the micro-level methods most people think of, myself included, when thinking of ways to address food insecurity.
I believe food pantries, community fridges, and food banks are a great way to help out the food-insecure students. One of the community fridges that I personally like to visit occasionally is located near St. Francis College at 124 Henry St. Another way food insecurity in the college community can be solved is through Food apps; perfect examples are the Share Meals food app, which helps to end college hunger by sharing extra meal swipes with food-insecure students, and the Too Good to Go app, which focuses on reducing food waste by allowing customers to purchase leftover meals at discounted prices.
At first glance, the food landscape seems ominous and gloomy, but it does not have to be. With the right brushes and the right paint and by working together as a community, we can paint over the downbeat tones and create a bright and cheerful scenery. However, as in the actual process of painting, one must first use a primer in order to successfully paint over a darker color.