MANKATO — Nearly two-thirds of Minnesota State University undergrads have experienced food insecurity, a recent survey conducted by sociology students has found.
Students in the university's “sociology in action” class spent the spring semester examining food insecurity among their peers and resources available on campus and in the community. The students presented their findings Tuesday evening along with recommendations for new resources including a university-supported food pantry.
The class, led by assistant professor Carol Glasser, emailed online survey requests to a sampling of 2,100 on-campus student undergrads representing the demographic makeup of the student body. From the 260 students that replied that a greater percentage of MSU students are food insecure than in other campus surveys across the country.
Sixty-four percent of the MSU survey respondents said they could not afford or for other reasons did not always have adequate food to eat during the prior month. Prior studies at other schools have found food insecurity rates between 14 and 59 percent.
Nearly half of the MSU respondents said they have run out of money for food, nearly half said they have experienced times when they couldn't afford balanced meals and over a third said they had worried they wouldn't have enough money for food in the prior 30 days.
Nine percent of respondents had gone a full day without food because they couldn't afford to eat and nine percent had lost weight from skipping meals.
Student Lativa Ford said they found respondents' gender and year in school made no difference in the likelihood of food security. But a student's race was a determinant. Eighty-two percent of Asian students, 77 of Hispanic students and 76 perfect of black students reported food insecurity, compared to 59 percent of white students.
A number of survey-takers said hunger had negatively influenced their academic performance. One respondent said, “I ended up skipping a class just because of how loud my stomach was growling.” The responses also included comments about having difficulty concentrating and skipping studying to work extra shifts.
“Students are actively skipping meals and there have been some health and academic ramifications to that,” socially student Cole Denisen said while presenting the findings.
Cost wasn't the only reason students said they skipped meals. Lack of time, limited healthy and ethnic options on campus and lack of transportation to grocery stores were among the other factors.
The sociology students found that the university does not have enough help for students who don't have adequate food.
“Right now the resources that are here are not meeting the student need. Something has to be done,” said graduate student Samuel Orinstien.
The class presented recommendations including establishing a centralized office at which students can find campus and community resources.
They also suggested establishing an on-campus food pantry with hours and services that are broader than those at the Campus Cupboard, which serves MSU students at the Crossroads Campus Ministry church near campus.
Other ideas included allowing students to donate their unused dinning plan dollars to other students, and adding an express bus route to area grocery stores.