That Time I Went Grocery Shopping

by Yuuki Nishida, FINDink Contributor

As I entered my second year of college, one of the things I was really looking forward to was getting a kitchen in my housing. I was ready to ditch the bland dining hall food and cook my own meals. However, I was met with the harsh reality of buying groceries.

It was near the first few days of classes, and I needed to buy groceries to feed myself for the next few days. When I walked into the supermarket for the first time, I was shocked at the cost of what I bought. I didn’t even buy that much. I didn’t have enough food to even feed me two meals a day for the week. I began to panic. I hadn’t bought any of my textbooks, yet most of my money disappeared from trying to sustain myself. I knew that I had to sacrifice a couple of meals just so I could have the materials to pass my class, and that’s just not right.

Food insecurity among college students is higher than the national average of 12.7 percent. According to a study done by the American Anthropological Association, a reported range of 14–59 percent of students felt a level of food insecurity at some point during their college career. And higher level institutions aren’t doing much to fix this problem.

In an interview with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, professor Anthony Jack focused his research on low-income students attending college. He coins two terms to describe the kinds of low-income undergraduates: “doubly disadvantaged,” students coming from under-resourced public high schools, and “privileged poor,” students who attended private or prep schools.

Jack highlights the challenges that low-income students face when dealing with food insecurity on campus. “What you find at community colleges and state colleges and other places is chronic food insecurity, where not knowing where their next meal is coming is more of an everyday reality,” Jack said. He also describes episodic food insecurity, for students who struggle to find meals because of closed dining halls since they can’t afford to go home during breaks.

“By documenting not just the rates but the difference in nature, we can get a better understanding of the kind of interventions and solutions different colleges can take,” said Jack.

My story is is one of many that other students across the nation. While I’m blessed that I am now on co-op working a full-time job, there are still students out there that struggle to make ends meet while pursuing their education. It’s important to note the harmful effects that the “Broke College Student” stereotype can have. Students eat instant noodle packs, not because they want to, but because they need to feed themselves.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.