The Rising Issue of Food Insecurity Among College Students

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College should be a time of growth, exploration, and learning, but for many students, it becomes a struggle to meet one of their most basic needs – food security. According to Temple University’s The Hope Center, as many as one out of every three college students in the USA is dealing with food insecurity. This alarming trend sheds light on the harsh reality faced by many students who battle hunger while trying to earn their degrees.

What Is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity is a critical issue that affects millions of people worldwide. According to Feeding America, food insecurity occurs when individuals do not have enough food to eat and are uncertain about where their next meal will come from. 

This systemic problem can impact anyone due to various factors such as poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, chronic health conditions, as well as racism and discrimination. 

What Does Malnutrition Feel Like?

Malnutrition occurs when a person’s diet lacks the necessary nutrients or is imbalanced, leading to adverse health effects. The symptoms of malnutrition can vary depending on the specific nutrient deficiencies and the severity of the condition.

Some common symptoms of malnutrition include:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Impaired immune function

What Causes Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity is caused by various factors, both human-driven and natural. The main cause is poverty, which limits people’s ability to access and afford sufficient food. Poverty affects people’s purchasing power, making it difficult for them to meet their basic nutritional needs.

Another significant factor is the limited access to food, which can be due to geographic constraints, lack of transportation, or limited availability of food retailers in certain areas. This is particularly common in rural and remote regions, where residents sometimes struggle to reach grocery stores or markets.

Systemic issues such as inequality, social and economic disparities, and political instability can also influence food insecurity. These factors can contribute to the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities.

Environmental factors and natural disasters also contribute to food insecurity. Droughts, floods, extreme weather events, and other climate-related conditions can lead to crop failures, livestock losses, and food production and supply chain disruptions.

How Many People Are Food Insecure?

According to a United Nations report, there were 828 million people globally who experienced hunger in 2021. This represented an increase of approximately 46 million individuals from the previous year and 150 million since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nearly one in three individuals globally, which accounts for approximately 2.37 billion people, lacked access to sufficient food in 2020. This marked an increase of nearly 320 million people compared to previous years. 

Moreover, the number of individuals facing acute food insecurity, necessitating immediate food and livelihood support, surpassed 250 million.

The Growing Need for Campus Food Pantries

Colleges and universities nationwide are seeing an increasing demand for on-campus food pantries. At the University of California, Davis, students line up daily to access the school’s food pantry. The pantry is run by students who were once recipients of its aid themselves and plays a vital role in alleviating the burden of food insecurity.

The High Cost of Education

For many college students, the excessively high cost of education leaves little room for other essentials, such as food. Also, rent costs continue to rise, putting further strain on people’s already tight budgets. 

Senior Erin Cashin, a student at UC Davis, explains how “food and groceries and just basic needs costs are so gigantic.” This financial struggle forces students like Cashin to structure their schedules around accessing the food pantry, which becomes their lifeline.

Supporting Students with Basic Needs

Campus food pantries offer students canned goods, nonperishable items, and fresh produce. At UC Davis, where the pantry is located in the heart of campus, students can access food without fear of stigma or judgment.

Director Leslie Kemp acknowledges the importance of providing nutritious options, including produce grown on the student farm and donated to the pantry. This approach helps students receive the necessary sustenance to fuel their studies and maintain their mental and physical health.

A Nationwide Issue: The Growth of College Food Pantries

Unfortunately, the issue of food insecurity is not limited to UC Davis. According to the nonprofit Trellis Company, there are now close to 800 food pantries on college campuses across the country, a significant increase from just 80 a decade ago. 

This alarming statistic reflects the pressing need to address this widespread problem that affects college students nationwide.


The growing prevalence of food insecurity among college students calls for urgent action. Campus food pantries have emerged as a crucial support system for students struggling to make ends meet. 

These pantries not only provide much-needed sustenance but also contribute to the overall well-being of the student body. Colleges and universities must continue to prioritize the establishment and support of food pantries, ensuring that no student has to face hunger while pursuing their education. 

By addressing this issue head-on, we can create an inclusive and supportive environment for all college students.

If you’re thinking about earning an online Christian degree, we invite you to take a look at Liberty University, Colorado Christian University, Regent University, Grand Canyon University, and Houston Christian University. These Christian universities provide a range of degree options and are strongly committed to Christian values and education. 


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