I hurriedly typed out the last lines of my essay and logged out of the computer. The printer grumbled along with my stomach as it spat out sheets of paper. My Mac had died on me the day before, so I was trapped in a dark computer lab completing an assignment. It wasn’t due until the next day, but I had to finish it before I went home for the night and made dinner; something I desperately needed as the fluorescent lights shocked my hungry brain. I shoved my things into my backpack and rushed to the faulty stapler, which crushed its only staple into my title page. I rubbed my now aching head as I searched for my professor’s office in the labyrinth of hallways known as the East Quad basement. I tossed my papers under her door and made a beeline for the exit.
At the top of the stairs, a line of chattering freshmen and sophomores waited to get their Mcards swiped as the staff began serving dinner in the dining hall. I would have joined them if I hadn’t opted out of the school’s insanely expensive meal plan when I moved into my own apartment. My mouth watered at the smell of deep-fried something that filled the air. Ten minutes later, I finally made it to my apartment and popped three ibuprofen in my mouth to soothe my hunger-induced migraine before having pizza rolls for dinner — the first thing I had eaten since 10 a.m.
While going hungry like this is rare for me, for many students it’s the norm.
The skyrocketing price of attending college, paired with more socioeconomically diverse student bodies, has made student hunger a growing issue.
In fact, in 2016, nearly half of all college students reported going hungry at least once in the past month. The scale of the problem prompted Michigan’s own Sen. Debbie Stabenow and presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to request that Congress investigate the issue. The Government Accountability Office found that more than 30 percent of students are at significant risk of consistently going hungry. This may only be the tip of the iceberg, however, as the issue is severely understudied.
Often food insecurity most severely affects those who are already struggling the most. Students who are low income, first-generation or have children often find themselves having to work many hours or, as in my mother’s case, multiple jobs to put food on the table. This severely inhibits their ability to succeed in school and decreases their likelihood of graduating.
Universities have used food pantries to Band-Aid the issue, but they fall short of finding a solution. With the endowments of the 10 richest schools equaling a whopping $155.6 billion, we deserve more than Band-Aids.
Colleges, and four-year universities in particular, should provide all of their students with free meal plans. Even those who aren’t parents or low-income students shouldn’t have to pay upwards of $50,000 in tuition costs and still wonder where they’re getting lunch.
No student — whether it be a single mother trying to feed her child or a sorority girl cramming for an exam in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library — should go hungry while the University of Michigan plays with more than $7 billion. As $1 billion go toward the construction of new projects and even $10,000-a-day private jet excursions on occasion, myself and many other students must continue to plan our days around when, or if, they should eat.
Riley Dehr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.