The freshman fifteen: it’s a phenomenon where college students gain fifteen pounds the first year away from home. However, a growing number of students don’t add weight — they lose it.
According to a new study conducted by Temple University and the Wisconsin Hope Lab, 36 percent of U.S. college students experience food insecurity – the limited availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.
The issue is commonly overlooked during the summer, especially as much of the focus falls instead on the lack of K-12 lunch programs when the school year comes to a close.
While summer financial aid only covers tuition and fees and many scholarships don’t carry into summer term, students are left choosing between buying textbooks for their summer classes and paying for their next meal.
University food pantries are working to combat this problem. During the limited hours of operation, volunteers hand out groceries like rice, oatmeal, soup and canned tuna to students in need.
Katie Jones, registered dietitian and cofounder of the University of South Florida’s food pantry Feed-A-Bull, recognized some students’ struggles.
“The food that we offer is supplemental,” said Jones. “It’s not going to cover your meals for an entire week, but it is going to give you food that then allows you to allocate money towards other necessary expenditures that you have.”
USF’s Feed-A-Bull sees 20 to 25 students in need per week year round, according to Jones. Even during the summer, these students rely on the pantry.
Jones stressed that food pantries do more than just supply food to students. Feed-A-Bull provides students with cooking demonstrations, recipe cards and nutritional handouts as well.
“The main goal is just to provide supplemental food assistance and then also some nutrition education,” Jones said. “We also refer out to other services on campus to ensure students are connected with everybody that they could potentially need for additional assistance.”
USF’s Feed-A-Bull is holding a food drive until August 3 to ensure its shelves are stocked.
Currently, over 500 U.S. college campuses, including almost 20 in Florida, have food pantries.
Florida University Food Pantries