Student Perspectives: College Meals Plans and Campus Hunger

Lauren is one of five student leaders on the Campus Hunger Project Planning Team. She is a current sophomore and a board member of Challah for Hunger at the University of Vermont. To follow Lauren and the Planning Team’s progress, sign up for monthly updates here.

As a student at the University of Vermont, I have seen many of my peers struggle to budget out their meal plan’s dining points for the semester and end up forced to spend money buying meals outside of the plan or even skip meals if they do not have this money.

This is not just a problem on my campus: according to a recent study, 46% of food insecure college students run out of meal points before the semester is over compared to 33% of all students running out of meal points.

My current meal plan costs $2,061 a semester and comes with 1400 dining points, which averages out to about 90 dining points a week, or a little under $20.11 per day. For one week, I decided to try living off this dining point budget without skipping meals or spending more than 90 points.

By day one I realized that there was no way I was going to stay in this budget if I was only buying prepared food. From the limited grocery section available in the on-campus grocery market I bought cereal, an individual sized milk, rice, frozen broccoli and a small container of sliced chicken breast costing a day’s worth of points. I wanted to make those ingredients last me three days worth of dinner and breakfast and then I could spend the combination of the two other days of points on three days worth of lunches at other markets closer to my classes where I don’t have time to prepare food in between class.

I was able to eat three meals a day for the whole week, but it took a lot of planning and control. The only way I was able to stay within my 90 points was to prepare my own meals from the very limited grocery selection. I was definitely hungry at some points during the day and found myself seeking out free food whenever I could. Snacks were hard to buy as they only sell individually portioned snacks which tends to be pricier than buying a whole package. I found it hard to eat healthy as well, when buying ingredients for dinner my vegetable options were frozen corn or frozen broccoli and my starch options were pasta or white rice. My goal for lunch was to buy whatever would fill me up the most even if it wasn’t a healthy option.

I realized during this week that I am very lucky to have the ability to get food elsewhere if I need it – after just one week eating on this limited budget, I felt more hungry and tired than usual. It was very stressful trying to budget my meal plan and find time every day to cook dinner.

Expensive, mandatory meals plans that don’t provide three meals a day are causing serious health and financial issues for low income students who pay for a required meal plan and can’t afford to buy food elsewhere.

Two organizations are trying to help these students. The nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger allows students to donate meal swipes and points that they do not need to their peers. Over 400 Universities and Colleges as members of the College and University Food Bank Alliance have on campus food banks that allow students to get additional food which can help them spread out their meal plan.

While these resources are very useful to help students get the food they need at the current moment, students at some schools are advocating for more permanent solutions, petitioning the cost, quality, and availability of the food on the meal plan. Here at the University of Vermont a new committee of faculty was formed to investigate these issues further on our campus. These actions are urging policy changes at the university level which is the only way to cause long term change for the food security of students.

Chapter spotlight: CfH at Vanderbilt

Our guest blogger this week is Sydney, the chapter president of CfH at Vanderbilt University. At least once a semester, the chapter volunteers with their local partner The Nashville Food Project to prepare food for the organization’s meal program.

I got involved in Challah for Hunger because I wanted to spend some of my time in college giving back to others, and I loved the idea of doing so as part of a Jewish community. Like Alexander Hamilton, our chapter here at Vandy is young, scrappy, and hungry. We’re a relatively new organization on campus, and although we are small, we work hard at our biweekly bakes and almost always sell out of challah! We love adding our own unique flare to our challahs, experimenting with new flavors including s’mores, pumpkin spice, red velvet, and so many more. We’ve also created a new preorder system that helps us to sell even more challah and raise more money for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the Nashville Food Project. Last semester we raised over $800 -we are not throwing away our shot!

Our Latest Update on the Campus Hunger Project

Meet Our Student Planning Team
Alex, UC-Berkeley
Arielle, Colgate University
Bridget, University of Arizona
Lauren R, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lauren B, University of Vermont

This team is busy teaching other chapter leaders about the Campus Hunger Project, supporting students as they conduct interviews with administrators, and organizing campus events.

Student Perspectives

As students conduct interviews with campus administrators, we are inviting them to share their advocacy experiences. Last week we featured Yvonne and Gerry, students from the Washington University of St. Louis chapter. Click here to Yvonne and Gerry’s story.

Campus Hunger in the News
Stay up to date with the issue. Check out these articles.

Mass. Public Campuses See More Hungry And Homeless Students, January 24, 2017

Did you find an article, podcast, or video related to campus hunger that you’d like to share? Email CfH Program Manager Talia at talia@challahforhunger.org.

Student Perspectives: The Campus Hunger Project

As Challah for Hunger chapter leaders conduct interviews with campus administrators, we are inviting student leaders to share their advocacy experience. Sophomores Gerry and Yvonne are student leaders at the CfH chapter at Washington University of St. Louis, and share their interview experience below. 

Our  interview with an assistant dean in the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs was really enlightening. She shared with us the resources that are available to WashU students who live off-campus and are struggling to access to food. These resources include an emergency fund that students can apply for and a nearby community food pantry. While it was comforting to learn that our school has a protocol in place to help students, we were surprised that knowledge of these resources among the student body is quite low. This inspired our Challah for Hunger chapter to spread awareness of these resources to better support our peers in the WashU community. 

To learn more about the Campus Hunger Project, click here. 

A New York Alumni Gathering

During the first week of the New Year, Challah for Hunger alumni in New York gathered together for a Shabbat dinner. We asked alumna Isabel, who helped organize the event, to share her experience.

Hi! My name is Isabel, and I’m a recent graduate from Barnard College where I was president of the Barnard/Columbia chapter. Since graduating, I’ve started working at a developmental and cancer biology lab at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. As I’m figuring out my life post-college, I want to find ways to build my Jewish community in a new setting, so when the opportunity to host a CfH Shabbat dinner came up, I was excited to be involved. I co-hosted with two other alumni – Sapir and Ana from UVA – and the night was a wonderful experience where we enjoyed homemade challah, great company, and made new connections that will hopefully continue.

To learn about other alumni opportunities, visit our Alumni page.

Baking for Social Change in Philadelphia

Zoe Braunstein is doing a year of service as a Food Justice Fellow in Philadelphia with Repair the World. In her partnership with Challah for Hunger, she leads
challah bakes and educational programming around issues of hunger and food access with the Social Change Bakery pilot project.  She reflected on
her experience on The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation’s blog. 

For the first eighteen years of my life, my Jewish identity was completely intertwined with service work. From weekly visits to the Collingswood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center with my Hebrew School class, to rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina with my Jewish sleepaway camp, to social action projects with my NFTY youth group, volunteerism was embedded in my practice of Judaism.

Yet, when I went away to college, I hardly participated in service work, and I felt a disconnect from the way that I had grown up practicing Judaism.

When the time came to figure out my post-college life, I knew that I wanted to give back somehow. A friend recommended that I apply for a fellowship with Repair the World (RTW), and a few months later, I accepted an offer to serve as a Food Justice Fellow for a year in Philadelphia.

RTW is a Jewish nonprofit committed to engaging millennials in service work around issues of food and education injustices. Through direct service and contextual learning, strong community partnerships, and engaging educational and social programming, RTW Fellows strive to infuse Jewish values into every part of our service. This fellowship has allowed me the opportunity to reconnect Judaism and service work, and showed me how important social justice is in Judaism.

What’s more, in my role, I get to work with Challah for Hunger (CfH), a nonprofit that brings people together to braid, bake and sell challah to raise money and awareness for local and global hunger-relief nonprofits.

CfH has chapters on 82 college campuses, and we are expanding our programming to engage adults with disabilities, Jewish teen groups, and families with young children through a project called The Social Change Bakery Network. We partner with existing groups and come together to bake challah, learn about hunger and philanthropy through Jewish educational programs and raise funds and awareness for social justice. Our goal is to create welcoming and meaningful experiences for Jews of different denominations, ages and abilities. In my role with CfH, I have been responsible for setting up Social Change Bakeries and running their bakes and educational programming.

My placement with CfH is, by far, my favorite part of my year of service because I have the privilege of helping others to appreciate the ties between social justice and Judaism. In developing the educational programming for the bakeries, I strive to connect Jewish values and teachings to issues of hunger and food access. For example, I have tied the Jewish value of tzedek (righteousness and justice) to our food system by thinking about animal welfare and agriculture, food access, and community participation in food systems.

In particular, it has been incredibly rewarding to watch the Social Change Bakery participants realize their Jewish obligation to advocate for social justice. The participants have also had the opportunity to engage in hands-on philanthropy. Each Social Change Bakery gets to choose which hunger-relief organization they will give to. Helping them through this process has been very humbling. I get to give the participants information about a variety of local nonprofits, and ask them to answer questions such as “Who is being helped by this organization?” and “How does this nonprofit address hunger?” and “How far will our donation go?” The participants then must come to a consensus and select their nonprofit. With some Social Change Bakeries, this has been a simple process, and with some other bakeries, this has been more difficult and involved an examination of the values that the group wishes to uphold.

Exploring the ties between Judaism and service with the Social Change Bakeries has also strengthened my own Jewish identity. I am
honored to be a part of such a meaningful volunteer opportunity, and to reconnect my religious practice to social justice.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or program participants.

Challah for Hunger Receives Social Action Award

WUJS_Logo

We are excited to announce that Challah for Hunger received The Maurice L. Perlzweig Award for Social Action from the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). WUJS is an international, pluralistic, non-partisan umbrella organization supporting national independent Jewish student associations all over the world.On January 4th, a jury of WUJS alumni and partners recognized Challah for Hunger for engaging students in a social action project in innovative ways, raising awareness of a local issue on campus, and creating volunteering opportunities for students on campus.
Thank you WUJS for this great honor! To learn more about WUJS and their work, visit http://www.wujscongress.com/.

Learning from the Campus Hunger Project

Since the Campus Hunger Project launched this summer, 32 chapters and counting have pledged to participate in the Campus Hunger Project, and our student volunteers have conducted 23 interviews of campus administrators to understand if and how their campuses support those in need. Sumner Schwartz, a junior and Challah for Hunger chapter treasurer at Occidental College, has been very active in the Campus Hunger Project:

Taking part in the Campus Hunger Project has been an eye-opening experience. I have learned so much about not only a problem that both my campus community and colleges around the country face but also how to bring about serious change. It’s been really cool interviewing key administrators–like the Director of Financial Aid and the Vice President of Hospitality Services–and coming up with changes that are going to help my fellow Oxy tigers.

…Through CfH I’ve learned ways to not only combat hunger in my community but how to bring about change. I’m really thankful for the strategies they have shown me in dealing with campus administrators and how to organize my community into creating real change. I know I’ll be able to use these tools and strategies in my future endeavors. 

Click here to learn more about the Campus Hunger Project. 

Why does marketing matter?

Nearly 50% of food insecure students in the University of California system wanted, but didn’t receive, information about who to talk to on their campus about not having enough food according to a recent study. Additionally, 45% of food insecure students didn’t receive but wanted to know locations of food pantries.

Marketing matters. Colleges and universities are starting to test out different advertising strategies for resources like campus food pantries and emergency loans. Some schools are comparing the effectiveness of email blasts, text alerts, and sharing information on school websites. Others are training freshman orientation leaders and residence hall staff to talk about food assistance as another important resource, just like academic counseling or the Health Center, for students to know about.

CfH leaders discuss underlying causes of campus hunger.
CfH leaders discuss underlying causes of campus hunger.

Word of mouth is a powerful and direct way for students to learn about available resources, but there are many other ways to reach students who might not feel comfortable turning to their peers, administrators, or professors for help.

What seems to be an emerging consensus among researchers and policymakers is that there is no “one size fits all” solution to supporting food insecure students. Schools can and should take the important step of testing out different modes of communicating with students.

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CfH leaders discuss possible barriers that food insecure students face in getting the support they need.

It takes courage for CfH chapter leaders to interview campus professionals in high positions and ask tough questions about what their schools are doing to help students who are struggling to afford food.

Over the past few months, CfH participants on 33 campuses took their advocacy work to the next level: they held 23 research interviews, launched important dialogues with their peers, listened to passionate speakers and learned more in-depth about campus hunger. We’re proud of our chapters’ hard work and excited to build on their progress next semester. Stay turned for your next update in January 2017!

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The costs of work

Employment rates for recent college graduates tend to make news headlines. What we read about less often is how many college students are forced to work while in school because of financial need.

Nearly 60% of college students experiencing food insecurity reported having a paying job, according to a study released last month of over 3,700 students in 12 different states.

These students aren’t just working to earn extra spending money. This data provides more proof that a traditional solution for financing college tuition – getting a job – isn’t sufficiently meeting the needs of millions of students today.

Nationally, over three quarters of college students work while in school. This wasn’t always the case. Between the early 1970s and 2000s, the proportion of students combining school and work more than doubled from 12% to 28%. This is in some part because the proportion of high school graduates going to college jumped from 31% to 55%.

Time is valuable. If students have to work to try and cover their basic needs and sometimes even their family’s needs, that means they have less time and energy for class and studying.

In the past two weeks, CfH leaders at University of Pittsburgh and SUNY Binghamton held campus interviews with a Student Affairs administrator and a University President. The Student Planning Team for the Campus Hunger Project has started to wrap up their outreach work for the semester and plan ahead for the spring.

Sign up to become an advocate today!

Celebrate the #ChallahDays

Our goal is to expand our network to 100 active chapters by the end of the 2016-2017 school year and you can help make this possible!