The issue of food insecurity isn’t new for those of us who aren’t privileged enough to benefit from the fruits of wealth. The definition of food security is the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. This Viewpoint is a follow up to the previous article written in February 2022. As a student who has faced food insecurity in their personal life and into college, I want to give an insider look into the structure of food insecurity at Carleton.
Here’s a cool, crisp summary of my dilemma: For the past two terms (Winter Term & Spring Term), I have been unable to buy groceries for myself. I am currently off-board — while being off-board means I am not required to be on the meal plan, one big flaw remains: we do not get a refund back from the school. The total cost for 20 meal swipes with dining dollars is $2,384.00 per term. Of course, the price drops as we go down to the five Meal Plan: $897 per term.
The general assumption of being off-board that I and other students have had is that we would receive a refund, which would then provide the monetary resources to support our own personal grocery needs. And yet, every interaction I have had with the Financial Aid Office about receiving a refund or some sort of assistance has ended with a similar reply: seek assistance through the Emergency Fund managed by the Dean of Students Office. As the aforementioned Carletonian article stated, “In theory, one would expect that the entirety of their donated meal swipe — around $10.00 to $15.00 — would be donated to the Emergency Fund managed by the Dean of Students Office, which provides meal vouchers for students experiencing food insecurity to use in the dining halls. However, in practice, only around $2.20 out of every swipe donated is put into the fund, which means that only about a fifth of each meal swipe is actually being donated.” Yeah, you read that: an average of 10% of Carleton students experience food insecurity. While that might not seem
like a big number to you, it’s a reality that many students like me face, where we can only afford one meal a day to get by.
For the past two terms, I have relied heavily on my friends pushing the back door to Burton for me, bum-rushing into LDC with 30 minutes to spare for dinner, using guest swipes from peers, finding free food at events and friends offering food that will soon go bad. Anywhere I could get food, I would stack plates and carry tupperware to carry leftovers. I joke around with friends and say I fast for religious reasons but for the past two terms, I have had no choice but to fast until 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. whenthe dining halls open for lunch and dinner. During the start of Spring Term, I would drink three protein shakes a day, equaling 75 grams of protein, just to keep some weight on my bones. I am not kidding: at the very moment that I write this, my partner has kindly bought me Taco Bell after I told them my first meal of the day was a bowl of oatmeal and two apples from Burton. While you may laugh at that or feel sorry for me, my story is one of many untold stories. Being off-board is cheaper for me when it comes time to make payment for the term but is it worth scavenging for a meal on the daily? So what’s next? Unfortunately, Swipe Out Hunger is out of the picture because the committee no longer exists. There is no longer an avenue for Carls to donate directly to the Emergency Fund.
However, here are steps that you can take to help support food insecure students on campus:
- Donate to the Carleton Mutual Aid Fund! This fund is run by Carleton students and gives money directly to students who need it. Most requests the fund receives are for groceries, which shows that even though the last public data on food insecurity is from 2018, it’s still a problem now! (@Carleton-MutualAid on Venmo)
- Donate food to the Carleton Cupboard.
- Spread the word about how Swipe Out Hunger is not a 1:1 trade, and that food insecurity is still a common experience for many Carleton students despite Swipe Out Hunger’s best efforts.
- Beyond that, advocate for Carleton to sufficiently cover dining costs for students-in-need for all four years, including during breaks if they remain on campus!
You might be wondering what I am going to do next. Advocate this issue to CSA: Jancyn seems to be the most progressive CSA President I’ve witnessed out of the three CSA administrations I have been present for. The possibility of passing a resolution to provide immediate assistance for off-board students is the only realistic solution to this issue. I hope my perspective and story on my struggles to just eat at Carleton shed light on a bigger issue that the college and students must work together to solve. LET THEM EAT!