Which rock star is helping Rutgers fight hunger?

Annual #RealCollege survey offers solutions to campus hunger and homelessness

Music superstar Jon Bon Jovi and Rutgers University have opened a free restaurant on the school’s Newark campus to support students struggling with hunger and food insecurity, according to North Jersey.com.

Bon Jovi’s JBJ Soul Kitchen, offers free, three-course meals at Rutgers-Newark, where more than half of the 13,000 students have “exceptional financial need,” according to NorthJersey.com

The problem, of course, extends far beyond New Jersey. An annual survey has found that a significant number of college students nationwide continue to face hunger, housing instability and to a lesser extent, homelessness.

Nearly half (46%) of the approximately 167,000 students interviewed reported having experienced uncertain housing, according to the fifth annual #RealCollege survey by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice.

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The survey, which comprised 171 two-year institutions and 56 four-year institutions, also found that 39% of respondents had been food insecure in the prior 30 days and 17% had been homeless during the year.

“The data provide ample reason to center efforts to address students’ basic needs as institutions seek to become ‘student-ready’ colleges where degree completion is common,” the authors wrote in the study’s introduction.

The authors suggest that faculty members include a basic needs security statement with each class syllabus to make students aware of support programs. They also recommend creating a basic needs website, centralizing fundraising for student emergency aid and helping students access federal nutrition and housing assistance programs.

The University of California, Berkeley’s food pantry each week serves about 1,1000 students, who will line up about an hour before the facility opens, according to NBC News.

Students can get free, locally-grown produce at the pantry, NBC News reported.

Students are also turning to technology to fight hunger on campus. Two students at Temple University launched a channel on the instant-messaging platform Slack to notify other students about the availability of free meals, such as leftovers from campus events, The Philadelphia Citizen reported.

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At other universities, such as New York University and Stanford University, students are using the Share Meals app to publicize when food is available, according to The Stanford Daily.

“We really love the app because it has GPS and map location settings,” Grace Achepohl, the Associated Students of Stanford University’s co-director of affordability, told The Daily Stanford. “If you click into the app, you can see the different locations where there is free food and see exactly what type of food is offered, the amount of servings there will be and when it is offered.”

Is hunger on campus getting worse?

In Georgia, Kennesaw State University’s CARE Center operates food pantries, and provides emergency housing and rental assistance, University Business® reported last year.

The center also offers an adopt-a-student program to supply them with pillows, sheets, toiletries and other essentials.

“A lot of students will say to us, ‘You don’t understand how close I was—I was contemplating suicide, and I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore,’” Marcy Stidum, CARE director, told UB. “With us swooping in, it makes the difference between being a student and not being a student.”

Because the U.S. Department of Education does not track food insecurity or hunger among college students, growth of the problems are hard to gauge, Katie Broton, an assistant professor of higher education and sociology at The University of Iowa, told UB last year.

“What we do know is over the past several decades, as the price of college has increased, need-based financial aid has been stagnant, so what we see is a growing net price of college,” Broton said. “And that net price has increased at the same time that family income for most Americans—those in the middle and lower classes—has been stagnant.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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