Students In Debt Are Still Hungry

Illustration by Madison Cohen

Last semester I worked two jobs, equalling over 40 hours per week, as a food service delivery driver. I struggled to make ends meet and could barely find time to do schoolwork, much less go grocery shopping.

Groceries were an expense I simply couldn’t afford. I made biweekly trips to Louie’s Cupboard, an on-campus food pantry for students, which is located in the University Union, room 212.

The pantry offers things like pasta, rice, beans, cereal, peanut butter, jelly and canned goods, which are items that students can live on.

In the past year, the number of students seeking this resource has doubled.

As stated in a presentation given at the new faculty orientation by Executive Director of Undergraduate Retention Melissa Welker and Director of First Year Experience Cody Canning, in the 2017-18 school year there were 496 students who utilized Louie’s Cupboard resources. However, during the 2018-19 school year, the number of participants reached up to 1,024 students.

Of those students, 45% reported experiencing food insecurity within the 30 days prior to being surveyed.

While it’s great that this resource is being utilized, it’s concerning that so many students might be unable to pay for their own groceries in order to sustain themselves.

The lengths that students will go just to make some extra money is disheartening, especially in Flagstaff where the cost of living is higher than average. Compared to Phoenix, the cost of housing is higher in Flagstaff, according to the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Cost of Living Index.

It can be difficult to find this money, especially in college.

Students might pay anywhere between $500 to $1,200 in rent. If someone works a minimum wage job at $12 an hour for 20 hours per week, they would make approximately $960 a month. While this may cover rent for some, it doesn’t include other expenses students have to pay to survive.

The root of this issue doesn’t only come down to the cost of living, but also the cost of attending an academic institution.

There is a fee for almost every class offered at NAU, and some students pay up to hundreds of dollars in textbooks only for one semester.

Some students have scholarships or financial aid, while others pay for their tuition entirely out of pocket.

The financial instability students face stems from flaws in the United States. education system. Students can’t even get a meal plan at a reasonable cost. For example, meal plans can range between $1,213 and $2,816 for one semester at NAU. Students already struggle to find the means to do something as simple as eat or buy food, and the university isn’t making it much easier for them.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin stated that 20% of students reported being hungry. Look around you — that means if NAU is anything like the University of Wisconsin, one fifth of people in your classes could be hungry or struggling to find the means to feed themselves.

This shouldn’t be the reality students face. If someone is in college they likely want to further their education, not have it hindered by expenses they face outside of fees and tuition.

Louie’s Cupboard distribution dates for the rest of the semester are Sept. 20, Oct. 4, Oct.18, Nov. 1, Nov. 15, Nov. 22 and Dec. 6.