College conjures up images of all-you-can-eat dining halls, midnight runs for pizza, tubs of ice cream in the dorm-room fridge, and ethnically sensitive burritos. I remember working in the dishroom of a dining hall as a student and grabbing trays of half-eaten burgers and pancakes from the conveyer belt, dumping all the mess into large trash cans. If anything, college is associated with an excess of food, where students gain the “Freshman 15.”
Recent research on hunger at colleges opens serious questions about those assumptions. Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of education policy and sociology at University of Wisconsin, last year surveyed 4,000 students at 10 community colleges across the country, including Delgado Community College in Louisiana, Essex County College in New Jersey, and Western Wyoming Community College. Her study, published in December, suggests that more than half of all community-college students struggle with food insecurity.