Lessons in Hunger 101

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Young people scrimping to make ends meet at college have been around for a long time. College students are at least partially responsible for the success of the ramen noodle industry. But a recent gift from Food Lion to Livingstone College brings attention to another problem: Too often, college students are going hungry — too hungry to learn.

The Blue Bear Pantry that Food Lion has generously stocked with 5,000 meals joins about 100 food pantries at colleges across the nation. In North Carolina, they include N.C. Central University, N.C. State, Durham Technical Community College and UNC campuses in Charlotte, Wilmington, Greensboro and Pembroke.

Don’t college students have meal tickets? Yes, the lucky ones do. But many students — commuters especially — don’t have that luxury and have to make their own way when it comes to food. With college tuition and the cost of textbooks steadily rising, some students have to choose between their studies and their stomachs.

One report from Feeding America said one in 10 hungry adults seeking emergency food assistance is a student. Some two million of them are studying full-time.

College and university campuses used to be the domain of the privileged. In recent years, the push for more people to get a college education has brought to campus more young people from struggling families — the first in their families to get a college degree. For them, food insecurity may be a fact of life.

As Livingstone College President Jimmy Jenkins said Monday, a food pantry will help students stretch their budgets and improve their nutrition. Open 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays in Ballard Hall, the Livingstone food pantry will serve students who qualify for federal financial aid and are not on the college meal plan.

The growth of college food banks led to the creation of the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which is spurred on by the understanding that education is the key to getting out of poverty. But first, students must eat.

The Food Lion Feeds program has committed to provide 500 million meals to people in need by the end of 2020. The food for the Blue Bear Pantry is just one small part of that, but the gift could have a big impact on students’ lives.