GVSU should do more for food insecurity

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 12/4/17 1:38am

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With all the expenses that go along with being a college student, eating a nutritious, healthy meal often becomes an unattainable luxury. Some students may be fortunate enough to have a campus meal plan and/or the ability to buy plenty of groceries, but many students are left with little-to-no resources when it comes to obtaining food.

This issue will be discussed in the upcoming Democracy 101 series event on Wednesday, Dec. 6, when George Lundskow, sociology professor at Grand Valley State University, will talk about the difficulty some Americans face paying for both college and food. 

This same topic was brought forward in GVSU’s student senate general assembly on Thursday, Nov. 30, where Sharalle Arnold, associate director of the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, shared a report from the College and University Food Bank Alliance that found that one in three students on college campuses are hungry, compared to one in seven people in the U.S.

One potential reason for this is that as college tuition continues to rise, students are having an increasingly difficult time supporting themselves. Tuition isn't the only thing students need to be concerned about, either. In fact, many students are responsible for funding the entirety of their living expenses, which can put a huge hole in their bank accounts, making paying for food nearly impossible.

Arnold also pointed out that there is a disproportionate number of first-generation students, low-income students and students of color who experience hunger on GVSU’s campus. This means that plenty of students who have already overcome their fair share of obstacles to get to GVSU in the first place are continuing to combat challenges that shouldn't even be there.

Though this issue may not affect everyone at the university the same, it is something that all college students should be able to sympathize with. It is hard enough to find time in the day to cook a full meal as a student, let alone a healthy one, but food is a basic need, and the idea that some GVSU students are going hungry on our campus is not one that should go unnoticed.

In Arnold’s address during the general assembly, she also mentioned that the number of students who have visited the campus food pantry, Replenish, has risen over the last few years. In the last academic year alone, more than 900 students visited the pantry. For this reason, she called on senate members to help Replenish expand its food bank into a larger space.

At the very least, this is something the university should seriously consider doing. Given all of the resources Replenish offers students, expanding the pantry's space to meet students' needs and supply them with food and services seems entirely necessary. Arnold also brought up the idea of having low- or no-cost meal plans for eligible students. As it stands, GVSU's cheapest weekly meal plan sits at $775 for five weeks, which includes $150 dining dollars and five meals per week. 

A low-cost meal plan is something GVSU should work to integrate, considering the vast number of students who are regularly utilizing Replenish’s resources. While it may not be possible to provide a meal plan at no cost to students without subsequently raising the cost of tuition, surely there is some wiggle room with the current prices.

While GVSU cannot control the prices of food all over the country, they can—and they should—make food more accessible on campus. Especially considering the recent tuition increase, the university should make appropriate efforts to accommodate students who are already struggling to afford their education alone. A university has a responsibility to its students, and if students at GVSU are going hungry, they are not being given an equal opportunity to succeed. 

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