Let’s cut to the chase. Food and water is a basic need. It is quintessential for our human existence that we continue to nourish and enrich our bodies with healthy food options. And at Pace University, it has been evident that there lacks priority for food insecure students and the proper food waste management after events. In most cases for college students, it can be unaffordable and/or infeasible to eat well-balanced meals or to even eat period. How can students even begin to focus their energies and brainpower into critical thinking and decision making for their individual Pace Paths when being broke, ramen noodle-fueled machines is something to be expected and laughed about? When the unfathomable cost of higher education is enough of a burden on students, they often have no choice but to watch their grades and produce papers that are only seen by the eyes of the professor to maintain their academic status. Keeping scholarships consumes students’ minds, it can be one stressor that makes it simply too easy to not consume healthy foods because of food costs, busy schedules, and low meal plan.
Thus, let’s stop making jokes about broke college students, starving artists, and cooking ramen noodles because that’s all students know how to make. Let’s show students how to prepare. Let’s address these issues and find possible solutions for incoming struggling food insecure victims to find resources on this campus.
After pursuing the interest of food insecurity and researching, I was surprised that students experience this from various different colleges around the world. As a researcher personally impacted by food insecurity, I too can relate to the thousands of hungry adolescents that are silently suffering from the hunger pangs and loud grumbling during classes or in between their daily commutes. The articles and data prove how so many students across the nation have to squander their creative energies in order to survive. Imagine the possibility and the tangible results of healthy students if we could eliminate food from their platter of worries. It is significant to be mindful and open to students who have different struggles then us and to see things from their perspective. Imagine if you were a food insecure person at a four-year academic institution and how that would impact your physical, psychological, mental, and social health. For some, food is considered a privilege, a luxurious indulgence of which does not cross the conscious mind. For others, it is canned tuna and water. It is being turned down from food stamps because they are an independent, non-resident. It is going to bed hungry because Pace University does not have fully functioning kitchens. It is skipping breakfast and sitting on the express E train at 8 am squeezing campus events that promise free food onto one’s itinerary between work and class for a quick bite to eat. It is the inability to call mom or dad begging for more food money. It is the inability to go out with friends for gelatos because your saving for new textbooks and lab supplies
So let’s be more mindful. We never know the battles every human being has fought. Specifically, data showcases that more and more first-generation, low-income students possess an insatiable hunger to pursue education and create change in the world when they arrive on campus. If one had previously struggled with food before obtaining a high school diploma, the problem is likely to follow. College is just a different battleground for the same draining fight. World hunger is a well-aged issue that continues to ferment and college is just one particular life stage where adults are susceptible to financially hard times and could unexpectedly find themselves deciding between school materials or dinner. As if multiple choice exams were not hard enough. Most students imagine getting selected to attend a university, arriving, and beginning their journey is enough to solve the problem. In the last decade, research has surfaced articulating food insecurity as a real threat to college students. For some students, they have worked their entire lives for the chance to turn their lives around at a college institution. Sacrifices and priorities for grades have been made over health in order to have a seat at the college cafe table. And meal plan money will run out eventually. Hallways replace food lines as the forgotten student scavengers roam the campus ecosystem awaiting events or seeking leftover food. Additionally, another problem boils down to inefficient and infective food budget calculations for upcoming events. There is a lack of budgeting workshops and money management for catered events resulting in a tendency for the full budget allocated towards one event to be used up. This means the excessively ordered food will inevitably gets tossed out because it is not eaten or taken.
It’s time to stop ignoring or stigmatizing this issue. All human beings deserve the right to have access to healthy food and clean water on every single country and every faraway region. It is a shame that at a prestigious four-year college such as Pace University, there is little assistance to students who really need food.
At the New York City campus, I hope we can begin to acknowledge the brevity of food insecurity and implement a concrete way to mitigate the issue. Every student here is worth it! Every student deserves food and water! Every well-nourished successful student would be able to display pride and honor in affiliation with Pace University without hungry stomaches.
Our research team includes myself, Janvi Patel, and Erin Furey, director of LGBTQA+ and Social Justice Center at Pace University. We have combined forces and concocted a recipe for success. We do not plan to glaze over this issue lightly; instead, have the mindset to produce an effective food exchange platform or portal that will alert students to left-over food at Pace University that other universities can replicate to solve student hunger and food waste. Since food and beverages collect in wastebaskets after staff and student events, we anticipate hundreds of pounds of food gets tossed away without the blink of an eye. We plan to glove up and measure the discards. Additionally, our litany of goals includes creating a literature review of our findings for publication, talking to other universities on how they tackle student hunger on their campus, partnering with Chartwells and the kitchen staff to see what happens after food is taken away, learning about food safety rules, and presenting our work at North American Student Affairs Professionals Conference (NASAPC) and several others. Our end goal is to not just look at food being wasted but get the waste to hungry students through an online app portal. Titled “Hungry Hearts & Minds – Creating a Food Exchange Platform at Pace University,” we estimate the preparation time to take up many hours, but we anticipate our findings to yield aid to thousands of hungry mouths and mal-nourished brains.