Rising cost of college leads to increase in student food insecurity

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CLEVELAND — A recently released report from the Government Accountability Office shows a startling trend when it comes to the cost of a college education.

The report shows that since 1990, the net price of college has doubled for students and that rise in cost has left some hungry. In a survey of 29 campuses nationwide, the GAO report found between nine and 50 percent of students face food insecurity.

According to the report:

  • 11 percent of households with a student in a 4-year college experienced food insecurity.
  • 14 percent of households with a student in vocational/technical education experienced food insecurity.
  • 17 percent of households with a student in a community college experienced food insecurity.

In Northeast Ohio, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank has programs to help everyone including college students, adding they have seen a large number of visits from partner campuses.

“At our three campus food pantry partners at Tri-C East and West and Cleveland State, we saw over 7,500 visits to those pantries on those campuses,” says Food Bank Vice President of Agency Programs and Services, Jessica Morgan.

We will serve anyone up to 200 percent of poverty guidelines,” she says. “Most college students who are not working would fall into those income guidelines.”

One campus program helping students is Cleveland State’s Lift Up Vikes! food pantry and resource center.

“We see who comes, we know there’s a greater need than who comes forward,” says CSU Vice Provost & Dean of Students Dr. Shannon Greybar Milliken. “Since we soft launched the food pantry in mid-2015, we’ve had over 11 hundred students register for it.”

The program is not able to use tax dollar for supplies instead depending on donations both monetary and physical.

With the need growing, Lift Up Vikes is expanding, in part due to a $1 million-dollar donation that will be used to expand its facility to a permanent location and to fund essential food and supplies.

“What we’re seeing in particular is our students are price sensitive,” says Dr. Greybar Milliken. “They won’t go into debt for things they don’t have to. We’re particularly mindful of taking care of those basic needs. They won’t be successful as students if they don’t have a safe place to stay at night and food in their bellies.”

And for students at a college or university with a program on campus, they can always call the Greater Cleveland Food Bank at (216)-738-2067 .

“We have warehouse full of food available to our partners that help college students,” says Morgan. “So, they can put together a really healthy bag of food that can include staples like meat and dairy and things that may be more expensive, especially on a college budget.”

The Food Bank says it is also exploring creating food pantry partnerships with several other schools in its six-county service area.

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