Student Perspectives: UMass-Amherst and the Campus Hunger Project

Rebecca Goldberg, a junior, and Arielle Newman, a senior, are co-presidents of Challah for Hunger at University of Massachusetts – Amherst. To follow our chapters’ research and advocacy work, sign up for monthly updates here.

We decided to get involved in the Campus Hunger Project because as a chapter we want to be advocates for our peers. In order to do so, we needed to learn about what our university was currently doing to  help students
experiencing hunger.

We learned that in Fall 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education conducted a survey of student hunger and homelessness in the state’s 29 public colleges and universities. Nearly 40% of the state’s public campuses reported an increase in students living with food insecurity. We were struck by that fact that out of the five UMass campuses, UMass Amherst is the only one that is not operating or partnering with a regular or mobile food pantry.

However, during an interview with a member of the Dean of Students office, we learned about the different ways that the University does support students with financial need who are experiencing food insecurity.

  1. UMass Amherst offers loans without interest or late fees that can be taken out by students in need.
  2.  UMass Dining offers free meal swipes (the way our dining halls work is you swipe your university card and the food is buffet style) to those who demonstrate food insecurity.
  3. The Dean of Students office is working to create a Supply Closet Program stocked with toiletries and basic household items for students.There would be a few locations on campus where students could go for support such as the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health and the Dean of Students office.

All in all, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of  programs that UMass Amherst has since few people know about them due to minimal to no advertisement. These programs show that the University cares about fighting student hunger and supporting those students who are affected by it. Additionally, during the interview with the Dean of Students office, we found out that the majority of students find out about the office’s programs through word of mouth.

With that said, we make sure to tell our volunteers and the student body about these programs so that they are aware of them and can spread the word as well. During all of the volunteer sessions, we have a hunger advocacy component where we talk and teach about student hunger and the resources available to students. We also have fliers and information sheets on the table during tabling when we sell the challah bread. Challah for Hunger at UMass has been working hard to and is continuing to spread the word about all of the programs that UMass Amherst has to offer.

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