Food insecurity is just one of the ways coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted our campus and community. Under normal circumstances, around 1.3 million Illinoisans face hunger each year. According to Feeding Illinois, the pandemic is projected to increase that number to close to 2 million by the end of the year, which means that many people are facing these challenges for the first time. This increase also applies to college students, who are seeking assistance at record rates. At the end of the spring semester, 3 out of 5 college students said they were facing food, housing, or other basic needs insecurities. More than one-third of working college students reported being laid off from their job during the pandemic, adding even more uncertainty to their situation.
Students from traditionally marginalized groups are at an even higher risk for facing these challenges. A study conducted by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 74 percent of indigenous students and 71 percent of Black students were facing basic needs insecurities, compared to 52 percent of white students. Carrie Welton, the director of The Hope Center is quoted as saying, “We know that post-secondary attainment is one of the most reliable pathways to economic security, so until we address these systemic barriers that are overwhelmingly, disproportionately racially driven, we’re going to continue to see massive racial wealth and income gaps because these barriers start at some of the earliest stages of our lives and … all the way through.”
Food insecurity is harmful at any stage of life, and for college students it can have an adverse effect on grades and future career goals. It is vital that these needs be addressed so that anxiety over food does not have to be a barrier to any student’s education, and many colleges and universities are doing what they can to alleviate this burden. Despite the pervasiveness of food insecurity, many students are unaware of the resources available to them. At Illinois State University and in Bloomington-Normal, there are a number of resources that students can utilize. The School Street Food Panty, for one, is open to ease the financial burden of buying groceries for students. The pantry is located at the First United Methodist Church and is open Fridays from 4-6 p.m. All you need to bring is your student ID card and a mask! Visit the School Street Food Pantry site more information. Students can also call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE for more information on food banks and other assistance programs in their community.