The college student food insecurity crisis

Photo by Alexa Christie | UW Tacoma’s The Pantry - located in the Dougan building

Food insecurity has become a common obstacle for college students in the United States.

Food insecurity is a familiar foe to college students. 36% of students were food insecure in 2018 according to a study conducted by Wisconsin’s HOPE Lab.

Food insecurity can be described as not eating three meals a day, not having access to fresh produce and food with nutritional value or just not having enough money to purchase food when needed.

First-year student Cali Williams offers her experience with food insecurity as a college student.

“Since I live in a dorm by myself, it is easier to shop for myself since I know what I need. The only issue with that is it ends up being really expensive and if I do not have enough money to go shopping, I would end up not being able to shop or have to skip either breakfast or lunch just so I would not run out of food,” Williams explained.

While there are resources such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides free or reduced cost meals to college students, it can be a struggle getting approved as there are many legal requirements that have to be met. However, UW Tacoma offers a free resource called The Pantry that many students have yet to learn about or use.

First-year student Rebecca Cowden offers her take on UWT’s resources regarding food insecurity.

“I think the University of Washington Tacoma handles food insecurity really well. The Pantry program that they offer is very helpful and I have had friends use it before. However, I do wish there was some kind of food program like with West Coast Grocery – or something like that,” Cowden added.

Marissa Morris, pantry assistant shares insight into The Pantry.

“The Pantry is a very helpful resource for college students because it can be difficult to buy food as it is a huge expense. The Pantry is a great resource for students to get food and hygiene products” Morris says. “We are open Monday through Friday from 9a.m. to 5p.m.”

According to Morris, The Pantry saw 329 students use The Pantry during winter quarter which was a much bigger number than the amount of students seen in the beginning of the pandemic. 

According to a study by CNBC, in the beginning of March 2022, consumers saw food prices increase by 7.9% compared to last year’s prices, so students may want to take advantage of these resources when faced with food insecurity hardships.

Students can find more information about The Pantry on their website at www.tacoma.uw.edu/equity-center/pantry or stop by Dougan at Room 104.

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