Jordan Davis / THE REVIEW
Food insecurity can affect a student’s performance in college.

BY
Staff Reporter

Food insecurity is an issue one in three college students will face nationwide, according to Swipe Out Hunger, the leading nonprofit addressing hunger among college students nationwide.

Kristin Wiens, a professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the university, defines food insecurity as a lack of availability and access to nutritious food.

“It’s about not being able to access or afford healthy, nutritious food,” Wiens said.

According to data from a 2018 nationwide #RealCollege survey report on food insecurity, 41% of respondents experienced some form of food insecurity. Wiens says students at the university are no exception.

“It felt like a lot of our students weren’t necessarily in that severe range, but quite a large group of students were still struggling to always have access to nutritious food, and that sometimes, people were having to wait to get paid to go grocery shopping because they didn’t have food available, ”Wiens said.

Food insecurity can also affect a student’s performance in college.

“We know when college students experience food insecurity, they’re more likely to do poorly in classes and ultimately to drop out of university or college,” Wiens said.

Wiens further mentioned the social stigma surrounding the issue of food insecurity.

“So no one wants to… admit that they’re experiencing food insecurity,” Wiens said. “Because unfortunately, in our society, there seems to be sort of this idea that you should be able to kind of pull yourself up and take care of it on your own and not get assistance, which is false.”

Catherine Zimmerman, a university alumna and current Young Professionals Board member at Swipe Out Hunger, said the stereotype of “a broke college student” normalizes the issue of food insecurity and contributes to the lack of conversations around the issue.

Both Zimmerman and Wiens pointed out that the issue of food insecurity is one that encompasses many issues of inequality, such as racial, economic and social disparities that must be addressed in order to eliminate food insecurity.

Currently, the university is partnered with Swipe Out Hunger for a program that allows students to donate unused swipes from a campus meal plan or FLEX account, which can then be used by any student in need without restrictions.

There are also local food pantries in Newark, including Blue Hen Bounty, a food pantry run by the university’s Episcopal Campus Ministry that provides students with food and toiletries.

In her time at the university, Zimmerman said she researched and connected with the administration to bring attention to the issue and founded the university’s chapter of Swipe Out Hunger.

“I believed the program could work at UD,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said students interested in helping address the issue of food insecurity should start talking about the issues that affect their campus and get involved with advocacy work.

Wiens said she believed the issue of food insecurity is being addressed more, but there is still a long way to go.

“For people that have experienced any degree of food insecurity… how on Earth can you possibly… reach self-actualization when you’re not meeting that very basic need?” Wiens said.

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