Forty-eight percent of college students surveyed said they faced food insecurity in the last 30 days, according to a study released last fall by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness. Here are five ways college dining departments are tackling the issue of food insecurity without breaking their budgets.
1. An app-based solution
After a report showed that 21% to 24% of students across California State University’s 23 campuses lack regular access to meals, the school’s Fullerton branch created a mobile app that notifies students when there are free or leftover meals from catered events on campus. Developed by dining services in conjunction with other campus departments, the Titan Bites app is available to any CSUF student and offers food on a first-come, first-serve basis.
2. Meal bank
Murray State University in Murray, Ky., puts students’ unredeemed guest meals to use by donating them to students facing food insecurity. The school’s Meal Bank program collects unused guest meals that students on unlimited meal plans receive for free and gives 14 meals per semester to students not on a meal plan. Participating students are able to “pay” for the meals by swiping in just like their peers on a plan.
3. Campus pantry
The University of Maryland, College Park, went the more traditional route of setting up an on-campus food pantry. Run by dining services with added support from the University Health Center and the School of Public Health, the program relies on student donations as well as student interns and volunteers to keep the pantry running and shelves stocked.
4. Meal vouchers
Dining services at the University of California, Los Angeles, provides meals to students in need through a program called Swipe Out Hunger, which was founded by a former UCLA student. The university takes meal swipes donated by students and transforms them into meal vouchers. Most students are able to receive one voucher per week.
5. Meal share
The University of Tennessee’s Big Orange Meal Share program allows students as well as faculty and alumni to provide meals to students in need. Launched in early 2016, the program allows current students at the Knoxville, Tenn., school to donate unused guest meals and alumni and staff to donate money toward meals at its all-you-can-eat dining facility. According to the university’s website, a donation of $7.87 provides breakfast for a student in need, while $9.18 or $11.03 will provide lunch or dinner, respectively.