As the pandemic rages on, colleges continue to fight food insecurity

Fallout from the coronavirus has heightened concerns around finances and food access.
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With college foodservice operations reducing hours and closing locations, whether for winter break or because of fewer folks on campus overall, schools are stepping in to help ensure their students retain access to meals. One in three college students is currently experiencing food insecurity, an increase of about 14% as a result of the pandemic, according to data recently cited by Sodexo. Here’s a sampling of such efforts across the country.

Short-term food allowances

To give students staying on campus over winter break some peace of mind, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is providing those students with a dining allowance that can be used at its eateries that remain open, which don’t accept meal swipes. The allowances are a mix of flex dollars and debit dollars, and students will get an amount commensurate with the number of weeks they’ll be on campus over the break, according to student news outlet The Hoya.

The university’s dining hall, which does accept meal swipes, closed in late November and will open again at the end of January. The dining allowance can also be used toward Hoyas @ Home, a grocery delivery service run by Georgetown’s catering department.

Emergency meals by request

Indiana University has resumed its Emergency Meals Project, an effort it began last spring to boost food access for students who remained in town after the Bloomington, Ind., campus shut down due to COVID-19. Meals, which are requested online, can be picked up five days a week. The program supplied more than 6,000 meals, including dishes such as Thai curry and miso salmon with wild rice, by the time it originally ceased operations in July.

Funds for food pantries

Community colleges in the San Diego area teamed up with the California Coast Credit Union and the San Diego food bank to raise money to support food pantries at 10 area colleges, NBC 7 reports. The food drive, which was conducted virtually, drummed up over $18,000, enough to provide more than 90,000 meals.

Meal Swipe Bank

Sodexo recently announced plans to expand a pilot program it debuted last spring in partnership with nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger. The joint effort, dubbed Meal Swipe Bank, allows enrolled college students to redeem free meals anonymously. The pilot launched on 12 campuses and will grow to include more than 100 by the end of next year, Sodexo said. In follow-up surveys, 80% of students who participated in the pilot reported feeling less stress and 44% said they were performing better in class.



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