On Oct. 4, MSU students and state representatives took to the Michigan Capitol to rally for greater food security resources at college campuses across Michigan.
Hosted by the Spartan Food Security Council, or SFSC, the event advocated for the introduction of the Hunger Free Campus Bill this month. If the bill passes, it would allocate resources tailored to the specific food security needs of the campus. This could mean establishing an on-campus food pantry or investing in already existing food resources.
“Things have changed since I was in school," bill co-sponsor Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp) said. “The cost of tuition has risen nearly five times the rate of inflation over the past 30 years. Today’s students working full time still can’t cover their tuition and expenses. As a result of that, some of our students are going hungry.”
According to the 2020 National College Health Assessment, two-fifths of MSU students have experienced food insecurity. This number has likely risen since the pandemic, SFSC co-president and co-founder Aditi Kulkarni said.
“Now that the COVID-19 expansion to SNAP has ended, I, along with many other students across the country, have lost access to this government food assistance,” SFSC advocacy chair Jay Lyon said.
Lyon said he had difficulty proving his eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, because of his status as a student. It took three months after he applied to begin receiving the benefits.
“Something that has become very evident to me personally is that it is really no longer possible as a student to work and be able to pay for your education, your rent, your food and other necessary expenses,” Lyon said.
Comparatively to other campuses, the food pantry on Northern Michigan University’s campus has seen about a 20% increase in visitors since last year, bill co-sponsor Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette) said.
“We need to recognize that there are assumptions that people are making about college students today that are no longer true about where they come from or what they’ve experienced,” Hill said. “These are hardworking Michiganders who are fighting and investing in their futures and they need our help.”
Brixie said that the Hunger Free Campus Bill goes hand-in-hand with the newly expanded budget that provides free breakfasts and lunches for kindergarten through grade 12 students.
Brixie acknowledged that no student can have successful outcomes in their studies when they are hungry.
“We’ve acknowledged how important this is for kids and we shouldn’t leave our college students behind," Brixie said.
At MSU, expanded food resources may mean establishing food pantries in every residential hall and additional funding for cultural foods in dining halls, which are disproportionately underfunded, SFSC education chair Kate Loope said.
“Marginalized community members around campus are more likely to be affected by food insecurity than their counterparts,” Kulkarni said. “How long will we make students choose between their education and a meal?”
Along with her and Rep. Brixie, Rep. Hill said that nearly every public university in Michigan is a co-sponsor to the bill.
“As citizens of one of the richest countries in the history of our world, we should all be able to agree that no one should be hungry,” Hill said. “Everyone deserves the chance to thrive and everyone deserves a fair shot at quality education.”
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