Food Insecurity Among College Students

Brandon Nguyen
Nov 19, 2021 · 3 min read

Food waste is a huge problem that affects everyone, and this is prevalent among college students. With the rising cost of college tuition, having access to food while studying for classes, working for money to pay off debt, and needing time to go to classes is hindered. A study done on Los Angeles college campuses by sending out anonymous surveys to a total of 1,478,935 students, received 86,000 responses back. What was found was that “41% of students reported food insecurity in the 30 days preceding the survey” (Frank, Finkbinder, & Powell). This affects college students because food insecurity causes students to “not buy a required textbook (55%), miss a class (53%) and/or drop a class altogether (25%)”. Students are forced to choose between academics and food, which is ironic because “higher education institutions waste 22 million pounds of food each year, which averages out to 142 pounds of food waste for each college student,” showcasing that the U.S. have the ability to feed all college students, yet somehow students still don’t have access to food. Universities have put some effort in an attempt to curb food insecurity among its students through meal plans, yet 43% still claims to be food insecure. This is especially attributed to time constraints that students are placed under, having to balance both work and their academic life, having enough time to eat an adequate amount of food is something that these college students lack. An additional factor that is present at USC is that students are unable to take food that they are unable to finish in a short period of time, and so they are forced to toss the food away, contributing to food waste (Nakagome). The university should allow students to take home food that they are unable to finish, or additional food as leftovers to eat whenever they are free to do so, especially while studying or after a study session. To further combat this, USC has implemented a system to separate food waste so that it ends up as compost rather than at landfills, thus limiting the negative effects of food waste such as global warming. Food waste contributes to global warming because when it is tossed at landfills, these scraps of food will eventually lead to the production of methane, a greenhouse gas that is notorious for raising the global temperature especially when it “has a global warming potential 25 times higher than carbon dioxide” (Ishangulyyev, Kim, & Lee). Since students who are dorming at USC are all required to purchase a meal plan, there should be recyclable take-out boxes that students are able to use to take additional food back to their dorms to limit the amount of time they waste by walking to and from the dining halls. Additionally, there should be a system where students who do not want their meal swipes to have the ability to give it to those who need it, saving these students both money and food wasted from the university when preparing meals.

Works Cited

Frank, Laura B., Finkbinder, Emily M., & Powell, Virginia S. “’Free Food on Campus!’: A Novel Use of Instructional Technology to Reduce University Food Waste and Feed Hungry Students.” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, vol. 16, no. 5, 2021, https://doi-org.libproxy2.usc.edu/10.1080/19320248.2020.1850389. Accessed 19 November 2021.

Ishangulyyev, Rovshen, Kim, Sanghyo, & Lee, Sang Hyeon. “Understanding Food Loss and Waste — Why Are We Losing and Wasting Food?” NCBI, vol. 8., no. 8, 2019, https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Ffoods8080297. Accessed 19 November 2021.

Nakagome, Yulia. “USC Should Adopt Better Methods to Eliminate Food Waste.” Daily Trojan, https://dailytrojan.com/2020/03/30/usc-should-adopt-better-methods-to-eliminate-food-waste/. Accessed 19 November 2021

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