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Blog of the Month, November: Food Insecurity - by: Sarah Tennant

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

The joke that college students survive on ramen and coffee is no longer just a joke. Instead, it is part of growing concern of food insecurity on campuses and throughout the country. Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as “lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life” (Feeding America). 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure in 2018, but the statistics are even higher among college students. Recent studies have estimated that nearly half of college students are food insecure. Simply living in Philadelphia exposes students to the reality of food insecurity. Philadelphia boasts one of the highest food insecure populations in the Northeast, as evidenced by this map (US Food Insecurity Map - Feeding America). Temple students are living in the middle of this issue, and it is important to realize that this might be affecting someone you know.

Kaylen Phillips, a Temple student who was food insecure during the Spring 2019 semester, realized the gravity of their situation by noticing the differences between their own financial situation and their friends. Kaylen would create a very strict budget for each week (usually ~$10) and use resources like the Cherry Pantry to stretch each dollar. They grew frustrated at how often they missed out on social outings because they couldn’t afford to eat out or have people over. Any excess money went towards potential future expenses because they couldn’t afford to take any chances.

Overall, Kaylen was constantly limited. In college, when students are expected to jump at every opportunity to express themselves and explore their options, it seems unacceptable that many students live day-to-day. Thankfully, college campuses are becoming aware of food insecurity. This is largely because they have taken an interest in how nutrition affects learning. Food insecure students have more difficulty learning effectively than students with a healthy lifestyle. The reality of food insecurity can be severe or moderate, but whatever the case, it could be happening to the person you sit next to in class, and you wouldn’t know.

However, there are ways that you can help and resources to be aware of on campus and around Philadelphia. There are several Temple organizations that deal with the issue of food insecurity on campus and in Philadelphia, such as:

  • Cherry Pantry

  • Temple Community Garden

  • Gives out free, fresh produce from the garden during the summer and early fall

  • Emergency Fund

  • Philabundance

  • AMA is participating in a canned food drive initiative with them now, please donate whatever you’re willing to give!

  • Grace Cafe

  • AMA and various Temple student organizations work with the Grace Cafe to provide free meals to the local community

  • Swipes for Philadelphia

  • Temple’s chapter of Swipe Out Hunger, a national organization that utilizes unused meal swipes to provide food insecure people access to nutritious meals

  • Sharing Excess

These organizations only offer temporary relief to food insecure people. Kaylen had a job at a restaurant that kept them fed in the meantime, but it took time and circumstance to change their situation. Kaylen points out that the issue of food insecurity stems from the larger issue of economic inequality. People should be aware of the resources that can help food insecure people and donate to those resources when they can, but the most important thing anyone can do is be aware of the problem.

Food insecurity can force people into isolation and cause them to feel embarrassed about their situation, so make sure to be cognizant of their struggle. If you are not food insecure, complaining as if you were or calling yourself “broke” can be triggering for food insecure people, especially the more into detail you get. You may feel like your spending is limited, but understand the circumstances.

Lastly, don’t let food insecurity stand in the way of getting to know people. The organizations listed are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how you can give. If you know someone who is or may be food insecure, offer to pay for lunch every now and then. Don’t let your neighbors go hungry.

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