Understanding Student Hunger at IC
Ten years ago, Buzzsaw described Ithaca College as a “food wasteland.” With the cost of meal plans rising rapidly, there were few opportunities for students to find accessible food outside of dining halls. But within the last decade, the college has made major steps toward eliminating food insecurity on campus.
In 2017, IC partnered with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to create the Mobile Food Pantry, a monthly pop-up where students can fill bags and boxes with both perishable and nonperishable goods. Swipe-Out Hunger, run by The Center for Civic Engagement, allows students to donate unused meal swipes to peers in need. Most recently, Civic Engagement created the On-Campus Food Pantry, a permanent location located in the DeMotte Room in Campus Center that provides food and other grocery items. Civic Engagement is actively working to partner once more with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier in order to provide even more resources for students. David Harker, the Director of the Center for Civic Engagement, believes this future collaboration will only grow the campaign to end hunger on campus.
The average university charges around $4,500 for an eight-month meal plan that includes three meals a day; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a single person will spend $3,989 on food in one year. With such disparity, hunger on college campuses is inevitable. The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness recently found that 32% of college students have said hunger impacts their education. Swipe Out Hunger reports that one in five students have skipped meals in order to afford other college necessities. New organizations seek to address the root of this problem.
The Food Pantry is in the midst of a pilot program this semester, opening for one hour per week rather than once a month. Members of the Honors Program serve as volunteers and work with Civic Engagement to advertise and brainstorm new ideas. Both faculty and student organizations have also been fundamental to the promotion of the pantry. Open to all members of the greater Ithaca community, it is most heavily used by students. Harker explained, “It’s a truth to hunger in general that there is no one type of person who experiences hunger. It comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes, and is probably under-reported.”
Next semester, Civic Engagement will host an AmeriCorp position that focuses strictly on combating hunger on campus, as well as conducting research into regarding the true prevalence of hunger. As Ithaca College transitions to in-house dining services, Harker hopes that the Food Pantry can branch out to include nutrition curriculums as well as explore issues of food insecurity beyond the local level. “It’s always been about meeting an immediate need,” said Harker, “but it is leading us to bigger questions about hunger and how we address it.”
Rachael Powles is a freshman Theatre Studies and Culture&Communication major who can’t wait to have her own kitchen again. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.