The Evidence that #StudentHungerIsReal

The field of research for college food insecurity is constantly evolving. Here are a few reports we point to for those who need to make a case that #StudentHungerIsReal on their campus.

College and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report

The Hope Lab

The #RealCollege survey is the nation’s largest annual assessment of basic needs security among college students. The survey, created by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice (Hope Center), specifically evaluates access to affordable food and housing.

This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2018 at 123 two- and four-year institutions across the United States.

Nearly 86,000 students participated in the survey. Among their findings were the following:

  • – 45% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days
  • – 56% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year
  • – 17% of respondents were homeless in the previous year

California Community Colleges #RealCollege Survey

The Hope Lab

The #RealCollege survey is the nation’s largest annual assessment of basic needs security among college students. The survey, which specifically evaluates access to affordable food and housing, began in 2015 under the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered at nearly half of the schools in the California Community College system in the fall of 2016 and 2018. The report includes an extensive methodological appendix, attached to it and also available as a standalone here.

Almost 40,000 students at 57 California Community Colleges participated. The results indicate:

  • – 50% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days,
  • – 60% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year,
  • – 19% of respondents were homeless in the previous year.

Global Food Initiative: Food and Housing Security at the University of California

The University of California

Meeting the basic needs of food and housing security is a multidimensional challenge for communities across the country and one that higher education also faces. Today expenses other than tuition can account for more than 60 percent of the total cost of attending a college or university. Over the past four decades, the cost of living for college students has increased by over 80 percent.

The University of California is dedicated to ensuring the success of its more than 260,000 students and as such, has embarked on a comprehensive effort to assess and help solve the basic needs challenges its students experience. To that end, this report builds on the 2015 Student Food Access and Security Survey (SFASS) and the findings from the 2016 Student Food Access and Security Study where 48 percent of the university’s undergraduates and 25 percent of its graduate students experience some level of food insecurity. The report, “Global Food Initiative: Food and Housing Security at the University of California,” provides information on the university’s latest data collection efforts and strategies for addressing basic needs security.

Hunger On Campus: The Challenge Of Food Insecurity For College Students

The Hope Lab 

In this report, the authoring groups utilize their presence on campuses to further develop the knowledge base in this nascent field. Drawing on a survey of almost 3,800 students at 34 community and 4-year colleges across 12 states – the broadest sample to date – the authors find that 22 percent of respondents have the very lowest levels of food insecurity, and 13 percent of students at community colleges are homeless. These figures are strikingly similar to prior estimates, and help to confirm that far too many students today are struggling.

Beyond the basic question of the incidence of food insecurity, this report helps shed needed light on the conditions these students face. Contrary to popular stereotypes, most food insecure students are working and receiving financial aid, and many are on meal plans. Yet relatively few receive food stamps, reinforcing findings from reports by the Center for Law and Social Policy and others that highlight the thin and failing safety net for undergraduates.

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