Initiative established to end food and housing insecurity on campus

After a study found that 14 percent of NC State students were not getting enough food and 9.6 percent experienced homelessness, the Food and Housing Security initiative was created by NC State faculty, staff and students to combat these issues.

Graphic by Anna Lee

A new initiative established by faculty, staff and students looks to end food insecurity and homelessness experienced among NC State students after a survey shed light on these issues.

Mary Haskett, co-chair of the committee for the Food and Housing Security Among NC State Students initiative and a professor in the psychology department, said the initiative was started last fall.

“The vision for the initiative is that all NC State students will have access to sufficient, healthy, culturally appropriate food and safe housing close to campus,” Haskett said. “Our first activity was to collect the surveys from students so that we could measure the extent of food and housing insecurity on our campus, and after collecting the data we’ve been working over the course of this year to establish a set of goals that we have for campus.”

Results of the survey show that 14 percent of students at NC State were food insecure in the last month and 9.6 percent experienced homelessness in the last year.

Sarah Wright, co-chair of the initiative and a Student Support Services academic coach, said that their goal is to reduce the number of students who are experiencing food insecurity and homelessness.

“[We want to] do this by having systematic changes within the university so that the system doesn’t create or exacerbate the issue,” Wright said. “Because if there are systems in place that contribute to a student being, for example, food insecure, there’s not much that can be done through a food pantry. If we need and want systematic change, we need to change and expand resources that are on the campus and the community.”

According to Haskett, food and housing insecurity is a growing problem across the country because of the cost of college education, stagnated wages, financial aid and limited affordable housing.

“The Raleigh area has a severe shortage of affordable housing right now,” Hasket said. “So, those issues that are taking place nationally are certainly impacting our students here as well. We’ve seen anecdotally an increase in these kinds of challenges in the past decade and felt it was really past time to begin to take these challenges seriously and move forward on our campus.”

The Food and Housing Security initiative was started by a group of faculty, staff and students who felt strongly about food security and homelessness.

“There’s no funding behind the initiative, so really it is a group of volunteers who are pretty passionate,” Haskett said. “We’re hoping that the steering committee will be a permanent fixture on campus and that there will be some funding to support this work.”

Anna Holmes, a second-year studying psychology, said she thinks the initiative is a great idea.

“I know there are lots of people on campus who don’t have enough to eat all the time,” Holmes said. “I think it’s great that they’re doing something about it.”

Wright, who said she was an under-resourced student who relied on food stamps and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits while in college, works with under resourced students at NC State.

“Each day I see what food and housing insecurity looks like in the college population and I see its impact on students’ health and progress towards their degrees,” Wright said. “I want to make sure the university as a whole can offer resources and that all students have access to services and resources [for food and housing security].”

On Thursday, the Food and Housing Security initiative will hold a Community Conversation to talk about the initiative in Hunt Library’s Duke Energy Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The discussion will help to form more ideas to combat the food and housing issues on campus.

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