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Food insecurity among California college students is on the rise

A new report by the California Student Aid Commission shows that food insecurity among college students has increased since the pandemic.
College students walking on campus
Over half (66%) of students who participated in the survey were reported as being food insecure. | Photo: Shutterstock

College students who receive financial aid in California are experiencing high rates of food insecurity, according to a new survey by the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC). 

Over half (66%) of students who participated in the survey were identified as being food insecure. Food insecurity among students was high across all college segments, including community colleges, California State University schools, private non-profit and private for-profit schools. 

In a previous study by the CSAC which looked at food insecurity among college students during the 2018-2019 school year, only 39% students were reported as being food insecure. The current study credits inflation, COVID-19 and loss of pandemic-era benefits as to why more students are struggling with finding where their next meal will come from. 

Students of color, low-income students and older students were more likely to experience food insecurity compared to their peers. 

In addition, 62% of students who lived on campus with a meal plan experienced food insecurity. The survey revealed that many students' meal plans do not cover enough meals for the entire week, and that participating in a meal plan may also mean that students are no longer eligible to receive food stamps or other food assistance. 

The survey was based on responses from 23,687 students who completed a FAFSA or California Dream Act Application for the 2022-23 academic year. 

Food insecurity continues to be a challenge on college campuses across the country. Schools have tried to address the issue through initiatives such as meal swipe donations and campus pantries

Earlier this month, the Chartwells Higher Ed dining team at the University of Pittsburgh began installing food lockers on campus to help those who are food insecure have an easier time accessing meals. The lockers are temperature-controlled and contain select meals that are available for free to students who are registered with the food pantry on campus.