More research is needed to accurately estimate the number of college students in Iowa facing food insecurity and hunger. However, as the problem grows, college campuses are finding ways to accurately assess the problem and effectively implement solutions to deal with it.

The #RealCollege survey is the nation’s largest annual assessment of basic needs security among college students. The survey specifically evaluates access to affordable food and housing. Nearly 86,000 students participated in the survey administered in the fall of 2018 at 123 two- and four-year institutions across the United States. This report describes the results of the survey.

Among their findings were that 45% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days.

A group of passionate and motivated undergraduate students at the University of Iowa saw that some of their peers were going hungry, unable to pay for the basic necessities to survive and attend college at the same time. In response to this growing hunger issue, they formed the Food Pantry Steering Committee which collected basic statistics on food insecurity at the University of Iowa. It also found a place to house a food pantry and garnered funding support for their efforts. After a year, the Food Pantry at Iowa was successfully established and opened to University of Iowa students, faculty and staff at the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester.

The Food Pantry at Iowa believes that food is a basic human right and everyone has a right to a healthy and nutritious meal. It believes that no University of Iowa student, faculty or staff member should have to go hungry or sacrifice a healthy diet because of lack of food affordability and accessibility.

In January 2019, after nearly three years of service to the community from the Iowa Memorial Union, the UI announced the expansion of the Food Pantry to a second West Campus location.

As of September 2018, according to the US Government and Accountability Office, over 650 college and universities reported having a food pantry on campus that provides free food to college students in need.

The Shop Food Pantry at Iowa State University and the Mustang Market at Mount Mercy University provide services to student at risk of hunger on their respective campuses. If your campus has an initiative addressing food insecurity please let us know so that they can be highlighted in a future issues of Scenes.