Students at Spelman and Morehouse are participating in a hunger strike to stop food insecurity on college campuses — starting with their own.
Food insecurity — which is the condition of lacking reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food — affects about 48% of college students in the United States, according to a 2016 study conducted by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness (NSCAHH) that surveyed 34 institutions of higher learning. Without sufficient food and nutrients on a daily basis, students are in jeopardy of undercutting their educational advancement and success. The NSCAHH found that 54% of students missed a study session due to hunger, while 55% opted out of extracurricular activities and 25% dropped a class.
To combat this issue, about 25 students at these top-tier HBCUs began a hunger strike on Nov. 3 to raise awareness and stop students from going hungry on their campuses. According to a petition posted on Change.org, of the approximately 4,381 students at Spelman and Morehouse, “1,404 face food insecurity while on campus due to the lack of financially being able to afford a meal plan.”
Since Friday, the student protesters have only consumed water and vitamins. One of their goals is to pressure college administrators into changing the school’s meal plan policy, which currently prevents students from sharing pre-purchased meals with peers. Lillian Thomas, for instance, says she only eats a few meals from her plan each week due to her strict vegan diet. However, she is restricted from donating her unwanted meals to students in need.
“Out of the 21 meals I get per week I might use about five, so it would be easy for me to donate my unused swipes to Spelman students who are actually in need of the food,” said the 20-year-old Spelman junior to Crossroads News, a community newspaper in Georgia.
Instead of having the food go uneaten, the students have proposed to change their schools’ restrictive meal plan policy. They also want to implement a program like Swipe Out Hunger, which partners with colleges and meal providers to allow students to give their already-paid-for meals to their peers or homeless people.
“By introducing a Swipe Out Hunger program at Spelman and Morehouse, we would directly impact student hunger and raise the awareness on the issues impacting our fellow students experiencing hunger and homelessness while in college,” Mary-Pat Hector, a student and community activist at Spelman, told Crossroads News.
On Facebook, she explained why students are going hungry on campuses around the county, especially with daily college expenses. “Food insecurity is a problem even for students who are employed, participate in a campus meal plan, or seek other financial or material help,” she wrote in a post.
In response the strike, Joyce Davis, Spelman’s director of marketing and communications, told Crossroads News that the college “look[s] forward to working with Aramark [their campus food provider] as we continue to explore the extent of the problem.” She added that the administration will meet with strikers to address the issue of on-campus hunger.