There’s a story about hunger that’s gone untold: hunger on college campuses.
For decades, we’ve laughed at the stereotype of students surviving on ramen noodle diets, but the joke’s over. A study released this spring revealed that 45% of university and college students in America report being food insecure. As the costs associated with being a student continue to rise — including tuition, books, rent, utilities, and more — it’s no wonder students are struggling to pay their bills, let alone put food on their plates.
For Abby, the burden is even worse. She’s a full-time student at Front Range Community College’s Longmont campus. On top of paying for school, she’s laden with costly treatment expenses for her chronic autoimmune disease.
In addition to medication, regular doctor visits, and a handful of invasive surgeries, she has to follow a highly restrictive (and very expensive) diet in order to remain healthy. She’s financially independent from her parents, so to pay for it all, she works two jobs, juggling 20-30 hours of work each week on top of a full course load.
Even so, she struggles to make ends meet: “There have been times that I’ve waited to pick up medication, because I couldn’t afford it. Or I have cancelled doctor’s appointments because I couldn’t afford them.” It’s not surprising that food is often last on her list of spending priorities. And as someone whose diet affects her health more than the average person, this has posed threats to her well-being as well as her ability to complete her education.
Thanks to the food she now receives at the on-campus food pantry — a program that is made possible by donors like you — Abby doesn’t have to sacrifice her health and her ability to succeed in school. Every week, she has access to the foods that keep her symptoms at bay: meat and eggs, non-dairy milk, gluten-free items, and one of her favorite on-the-go snacks: protein bars.
It’s the first time she’s ever received help, and she was nervous at first, explaining that she would visit the pantry in secret between classes. She eventually mentioned it to a friend in class; as a result, she learned that her classmate visited the pantry regularly too. In Abby’s words, their conversation “totally shattered the stigma.” Now, Abby promotes the pantry to other classmates, determined to help them feel welcome and normalize the reality that so many students face: “I’ve realized how important it is to be outspoken about these things because knowing that there’s someone you can relate to, someone who has similar experiences, can make all the difference in the world.”
Abby and Front Range Community College are helping to change a reality that has gone unaddressed for too long. You, our supporters, are part of this change. When asked what she would say to our donors if she had the chance, Abby responded, “I can’t thank you enough for what you do for myself and everyone in the community…having a place without judgment; a place that’s there to help you be successful…I can’t put into words how thankful I am for it.”
This story originally appeared in our Fall 2019 Newsletter. Photo courtesy of Caroline Colvin Photography