Food insecurity is a growing concern on college campuses nationwide. According to the USDA, food insecurity is a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” A recent survey of college students across the U.S. found 48% of respondents experienced food insecurity in the previous 30 days. There is no doubt this issue negatively impacts the educational success of thousands of students across the country, including our very own students at K-State.
A survey distributed to all K-State Manhattan campus domestic undergraduates revealed that many K-State students are at a financial breaking-point, where needs continuously outpace their resources. When students were asked about their specific concerns within the prior three months, 14% indicated they couldn’t meet their basic needs, 47% indicated they were unable to buy groceries at least once, and 25% indicated they had skipped meals. Moreover, the Campus Climate Assessment Project, sponsored by the University administration, revealed that 39% of the students who reported financial hardship indicated they had difficulty affording food. As such, in line with the Division of Student Life motto of “Putting Students First” the first centralized food pantry was established.
Since opening its doors on Sept. 25, 2017, the Cats’ Cupboard has served students from every college and serving students both at the undergraduate and graduate level. The majority of students served are homegrown, Kansas residents from all over the state. Given that food insecurity is a continuum and students’ needs vary, the pantry provides non-perishable food items and the opportunity for students to identify their own needs; from a full week’s groceries all the way down to a quick meal “on the go”. The pantry also carries hygiene products and toiletries in an effort to help alleviate the additional financial burden related to such basic necessities.
Research confirms that food insecurity can negatively impact educational success for countless students, and K-State students have been vocal in sharing their challenges both through university sponsored surveys, and directly with the Cats’ Cupboard. Over 57% of respondents to an end of the semester survey reported they had considered leaving K-State due to financial challenges. Furthermore, 98% indicated that using the pantry improved their level of financial stress.