Campus pantries help students with food insecurity get out of ‘survival mode’

With nearly one-third of college students experiencing food-insecurity and temporary federal benefits ending, food pantries at U.S. colleges and universities help students meet their basic needs, according to the Associated Press (AP). Full-time college students lacking consistent access to food is “one of those issues that came out of the shadows during the pandemic,” says Radha Muthiah, president of the Capital Area Food Bank. Experts predict that a potential new wave of students will experience food insecurity this fall with the end of pandemic-era eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for college students.

Congress temporarily amended SNAP work requirements for college students during the public emergency declared during the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed students to receive food assistance if they had $0 in expected family financial contributions and were approved for work study, regardless of the number of hours they worked. The relaxed restrictions made it easier for as many as three million college students from low-income households to receive SNAP benefits, according to data from The Century Foundation.

On May 11, the pandemic public declaration ended, marking a conclusion to pandemic-era SNAP benefits. College students already participating in the program had until June 30 to recertify and stay in the program under the pandemic-era exemptions until the return of pre-pandemic rules at varying points over the next year. The pandemic-era rules will not apply to first-year college students matriculating this fall, and experts say thousands of students may lose SNAP benefits in the coming year.

Preventing a ‘slow-rolling disaster’

Experts warn that the end of amended SNAP requirements and rising cost of food due to inflation may create higher demand for food assistance. 

“It kind of starts this slow-rolling disaster where we’re reverting to the old SNAP rules right at a time where obviously the need around food security is only going up,” said Bryce McKibben, senior director of policy and advocacy at Temple University’s Hope Center, the AP reports.

Responding to the rise in food insecurity among college students, hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities have created food pantries. However, their dependence on donations limits their size and scale, especially as advocates from Swipe Out Hunger warn that a return to pre-pandemic SNAP rules and rise in food costs due to inflation may lead to an increase in need. 

“Traffic at food banks and pantries is already increasing as states end their emergency SNAP benefits early,” the group explained. “When these emergency benefits end federally, be prepared to see a similar rise in student need at campus pantries and other on-campus hunger solutions programs.”

Hoya Hub Food Pantry

To ensure no Hoya goes hungry, Georgetown’s Hoya Hub food pantry offers free food and toiletries to all members of the Georgetown University community experiencing food insecurity, including undergraduate or graduate students, staff or faculty members. Located on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center, the pantry is stocked with a variety of nutritious, non-perishable food items—including gluten-free items—and personal hygiene products. Professional staff in the Division of Student Affairs and student volunteers support the Hoya Hub by organizing, stocking, and maintaining the pantry on a regular basis. 

Learn more about the Hoya Hub from the Division of Student Affairs, which oversees the pantry.

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