The USDA estimates that 1 in 7 U.S. households is food-insecure (i.e., their access to adequate food is limited). The USDA does not collect data specifically about hunger among college students, but it has emerged as an issue in recent years, driven by the increasing cost of college and a poor economy.
As part of its Global Food Initiative – launched in July 2014 – UC is now tackling the issue, and working to assure that its own students have food security, even as the institution addresses the larger issue of growing hunger around the world.
Since 2010, the University of California has conducted a biennial survey of its undergraduates to determine whether they skip meals to save money. The answer? About a quarter of UC students responded that they have skipped meals “somewhat often” to “very often.” This spring, a food insecurity survey is being conducted that will include undergraduate and graduate students at all 10 UC campuses.
Alec Rosenberg reports for UC:
“We will have a much more reliable estimate of food insecurity with data that can be compared across campuses and nationally,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Nutrition Policy Institute.
Ritchie co-leads the UC Global Food Initiative’s data-mining food security subcommittee with staff member Katie Maynard of UC Santa Barbara. Their subcommittee plans to get survey data by summer and report to campuses by fall, helping to inform the use of systemwide food security funding.
“Having President Napolitano raise this issue as a priority has really helped,” Ritchie said. “I don’t think that there has been anything done on food security like this across the country.”