Schools work to develop methods to mitigate food insecurity

College students eating in food halls
Photograph: Shutterstock

Food insecurity is a growing concern on college and university campuses coast to coast. More and more students lack proper nutrition and meals, caused by factors such as increasing tuition costs, a rise in first-generation students with lower incomes and multitasking responsibilities in work and school. The sad truth is that students are having to choose between toothpaste and breakfast, heating and eating, textbooks and meal plans.


According to a 2019 survey published by the Hope Center, College and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report, approximately 48% of students in two-year institutions and 41% of students at four-year institutions experience food insecurity. More than half of the respondents from two-year institutions and 44% from four-year institutions also reported being worried about running out of food. Many reported not being able to afford to eat balanced meals.


Food insecurity negatively impacts students’ overall well-being

It’s easy to take for granted the daily routine of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacking here and there throughout the day. Missing meals has a direct impact on students’ ability to function physically and intellectually, and it can create social roadblocks, particularly if they need to abstain from extracurricular activities due to the cost being too high.


This can all lead to behavioral issues that affect school life and grades. Food-insecure college-age students will have a higher probability of missing school more frequently and are more likely to repeat a class than food-secure students, according to the survey.


Establishing food programs to combat food insecurity

One of the most effective ways to help families and students to overcome food insecurity is with federal nutrition programs. Some of the current available programs include SNAP, WIC, the national school lunch program and No Kid Hungry.


There’s a void, however, when it comes to nutrition programs for colleges and universities. These dining programs are largely focused on enhancing the quality, health and variety of menu offerings. While these three aspects are important, foodservice operators need to do more to combat food insecurity going forward. However, some operators are turning to technology and other amenities to help students facing food insecurity.


Take CBORD, for example, which powers solutions for higher education that improve the student experience, increase revenues and provide data to streamline operations and inform strategic planning.


CBORD has partnered with Swipe Out Hunger, a nonprofit organization that addresses hunger on more than 85 college campuses. Swipe Out Hunger provides both common-sense and innovative solutions to campus hunger, including its flagship program, The Swipes Drive, which allows students to donate their extra meal plan swipes to their peers who face food insecurity on campus.


As the technology partner for Swipe Out Hunger, CBORD is confronting food insecurity head-on with an innovative meal-share program that allows students to donate unused meal credits to other students in need through the GET CBORD Student app. Once students donate meals through the mobile app, donations are tracked, pooled and distributed through the backend CBORD campus card system. For students facing food insecurity, each school provides a discrete method to request dining hall swipes, reducing the stigma that typically discourages those in need from accessing resources. 


Food insecurity is a real threat to college students’ success on campuses in the United States. With technology solutions changing the landscape of campus foodservice, more and more dining operations are establishing meal share programs to stem the tide of students living with food insecurity. Learn more about successful meal programs and other CBORD solutions today at

This post is sponsored by CBORD