Food Scholarships Could Help More Students Finish College

"It’s hard, if not impossible, to succeed in college if you’re hungry. Seems like such an easy concept that it’s not worth mentioning. But behind that simple concept are some staggering statistics. According to the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, more than 50 percent of community college students nationwide do not have access to healthy and affordable foods," Daphne Hernandez writes for The Conversation

"As a researcher who focuses on poverty, I believe campus hunger is a significant factor behind inequality in college completion rates. And 'food scholarships' may be a solution.

Some elected officials have begun to take notice. Last summer, Gov. Jerry Brown of California included US$7.5 million in his budget to develop 'hunger-free' college campuses. In December, advocates convened a federal briefing about campus food insecurity on Capitol Hill, where legislators are advancing bills to make it easier for undergraduates to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as SNAP.

In January, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed requiring food pantries on all State University of New York and City University of New York campuses to create a 'stigma-free' way to provide students with consistent access to healthy food.

In other states, such as Texas, grassroots efforts are leading the charge. These include a University of Houston and Temple University research project with which I am involved. The project is meant to study the impact of hunger on community college students and look at possible solutions.

....Eighty-eight percent of the students at Houston Community College, polled last semester indicated that food giveaways helped them focus more on school, according to a survey by the college. This is why food scholarships are being pursued as a solution.

The Houston Food Bank’s Food for Change program seeks to help students by providing them with 60 pounds of food. The groceries available include seasonal produce, frozen meat, dry goods and some canned goods. Goldrick-Rab, the sociology professor at Temple University, and I are evaluating the program in a project supported by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

We believe it’s the kind of program that could bring real change to those who need it most. At the Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest school district in the United States, 77 percent of children are economically disadvantaged and qualify for the reduced-cost or free breakfast and lunch programs. A number of these students graduate and enroll in community college, including Houston Community College, the second largest community college in Texas."

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Publication Date: 3/6/2018

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