Food insecurity affects people on and off college campuses throughout the United States. This includes Slippery Rock’s university and town.
Approximately 30% of SRU residential students experienced food insecurity in 2019, according to a survey conducted by Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SRSGA). That same year, 50% of college students nationwide had experienced food insecurity at some point during their education.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty and hunger levels have increased both locally and nationally.
“Food insecurity isn’t just like, oh, there’s nothing in my cupboard,” Mark Yankasky, who is a volunteer in Service to America placed at SRU through AmeriCorps, said. “It’s also like… when you get home and you open it and…you just [don’t] have what you need to put together a meal. That’s also food insecurity.”
Yankasky also said that food insecurity has always been an issue on college campuses, but it is discussed less as people normalize or even romanticize the topic.
“There’s a stigma that college students have where it’s like you’re supposed to be poor at that age,” he said. He cited the cliché of college students only eating ramen as an example of unfulfilled need.
“We need more awareness about how common it is on college campuses to be food insecure,” he said. “When people are aware about it, I think more people are going to be more accepting of help. And I think that we would be able to allocate resources a little bit more equitably.”
In order to spread awareness, the school’s Institute for Nonprofit Leadership dedicated last week to the topic. Each day, there was a different event revolving around education and action.
These events included a documentary showing, a food justice panel, a poverty education game, a grocery bingo and more. Today they are inviting students to join them in a countywide food drive at Butler SUCCEED until 1:30 pm.
“We try to collect food from a resource rich areas in the county and try to get that distributed to resource poor areas in the county,” Yankasky said. “We want to take organized food drives in Butler City and Cranberry and places where there’s a high population or high resources and then we distribute that to places…[that are] a bit more disconnected from those resources.”
For people with less food and resources, government programs like SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) can be vital. Because of this, students stapled letters to paper plates and sent them to State Representative Mike Kelly during the documentary showing on Monday.
The letter urged Kelly to support anti-hunger programs in the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill. “The Farm Bill will be critical to ensuring our students here at home and elsewhere have the resources they need to be successful students,” the letter read.
Aside from education and activism, the school supports food insecure students with RockPantry+, an SGA sponsored food pantry. They also regularly partner with another local pantry called Bob’s Cupboard.
“Agriculturally we’re a country who makes a lot of food. Like, so much food. But with distribution lines, we just have obstacles to getting it into the hands of the people who need it,” Yankasky said.