VOICE FOR EVERYONE | Share your voice with KSHB 41’s Elyse Schoenig
As college students across the country return to campus, there’s a lot more than books and classes top of mind. Many students are also thinking about when and where they’ll get their next meal.
According to the president of the Capital Area Food Bank, at least 30% of college students are food insecure.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, provides food benefits to low-income families and people.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Agriculture relaxed SNAP requirements for college students during the pandemic. This lets students on financial aid, without family support, and those on work study programs in. Around three million college students were brought in under this.
Now, things are changing, again.
Students who receive SNAP benefits had until earlier this summer to re-certify their roles in the program, according to the Associated Press. The expanded pandemic requirements will last for another year, before the chance to re-certify goes away entirely, and over the next year the rules go back to what they were before the pandemic, varying by the state.
It's why hundreds of colleges and universities have listened to this call for help by adding food pantries on campus. While these provide immense relief, many pantries rely on donations, which makes everything harder.
In the Kansas City metro, Harvesters works with ten area colleges and universities to provide food for on-campus pantries for college students.
For too many students, hunger is an everyday struggle. KSHB 41 visited a few area food pantries Harvesters helps on college campuses.
“This is part of their home while they’re here at Rockhurst. So, there’s no shame in needing a little something extra,” Rockhurst University’s Director of Community Relations and Outreach Alicia Douglas said. “They can grab something really quick between classes so that they’re not worried about being hungry.”
Douglas oversees Grandma’s Pantry at Rockhurst University.
“Looking at food insecurity, how do we help our students and any members, any of our companions, deal with that situation?” she said.
Harvesters helps fill the pantry’s freezers and shelves for those in need. Students recognize how far this goes.
“In the past, I’ve had students who don’t have sheets on their bed, or don’t have pillows,” senior Brayden Dulny said.
As a campus resident assistant, he said he’s trained to pick up on cues of food insecurity.
And it’s not just Rockhurst — UMKC has a pantry in its Care Center.
Thanks to Harvesters, they offer students fresh produce and refrigerated items.
“Not that many food pantries, especially student pantries, have places like Harvesters to give us donations,” UMKC Care Center Ambassador and Volunteer Julianne Bromagen said.
It’s an uphill battle to reverse the statistics and to help students find their next meals.
“When I hear my friends talking about food insecurity, I can always direct them here and they know this is a place they can come, no judgements, no questions asked, they can just get what they need and go,” Sydney King, UMKC Care Center ambassador and volunteer said.
KSHB 41 News' annual Fill the Fridge campaign with Harvesters Community Food Network is in full swing, providing nutritious meals to our neighbors at risk of hunger.
You can make a difference by donating to Harvesters here. Every dollar donated goes toward nutritious dairy, protein, fruits and vegetables.