By: Ana Tobias
Recently, I was talking to a few people and they told me about an alarming situation affecting colleges and universities across the United States. The problem college students are facing today is starvation. That’s right; as if studying and worrying about tuition was not bad enough, now students must face starvation and sometimes even homelessness.
It has gotten to the point that various institutions have started food pantries within the college or university. The students who have organized these food pantry programs state that they have done so because they do not believe their friends and classmates should suffer. They have also stated that in building their own pantries students do not need to travel to seek outside food pantries that may bring extra traveling expenses.
The campus food pantries have been a success, not that it was an automatic hit, there were a number of students who did not want to go to the food pantry because they felt ashamed or embarrassed, however as student and staff organizers tweaked the distribution process they noticed the number of students they helped increase dramatically. At one university the student places an online order for food they need that week, the campus food pantry receives the order, packs it and seals it. The student who picks up the package must show the student ID and they take their weekly merchandise no questions asked. Both parties say this has made students feel less embarrassed.
I found this situation alarming because I wasn’t all that familiar with the processes involved in paying for school and the tremendous costs involved (my tuition was paid in Mexico and scholarships to Europe enabled me to stay at a very reasonable rate). However as I came to the United States I noticed the complete lack of help available to first time college students and to foreign students, especially for non-traditional students without a family to support them. It was not until I was helping my students that I noticed the lack of information and help when paying for school, food, shelter, and transportation.
Rather than empower our young adults, we assume they are all wealthy or come from wealthy parents that take care of paying school, offering advice, or seeking the financial aid available. However, what happens to the students when there are no parents or family (or if there are, but they are unable to provide financial aid), the entire system breaks down and we have students going hungry, sleeping on a friends couch, and showering at the student union or gym.