Starving College Students Turn To Food Stamps, Food Pantries For Help

Most of us have memories of struggling as a broke college student. In my case, I remember going through weeks of school, surviving off boxes of cereal, Cup Noodles, and dollar pizzas. I never thought twice of the lack of nutrition I was getting, and simply put it aside as part of the poor college student experience.

Of course, during my freshman year, I had access to the dining hall because, as a residential student, I was required to purchase a meal plan. The cheapest meal plan was about $3,000 and offered 10-14 swipes a week into the main dining hall and some odd “points” that could be used like cash at convenience stores. Looking back on it, it was a complete rip-off.

To be fair, I used my meal plan often, but it was always a last resort for me, as it also was for my fellow schoolmates. We were basically served the same food everyday besides the special of the day, it was always overcrowded, and it wasn’t very accommodating to those with food allergies or specific diets. Simply put, there was an overabundance of fried, greasy foods and not enough fresh whole foods.

I had no idea then, but I now realize that I was experiencing food insecurity. And you  or your someone you know probably experienced it yourself, too.

So how has decent food become such an actual luxury for students?

For a growing number of college students nationwide, food continues to be just that: a basic human need that has been put on the back burner due to college tuitions and fees, rent, and school supplies. According to the Washington Examiner, “college expenses have risen exponentially — so much so that Pell Grants, which used to cover about 75% of the cost of attendance at a public four-year college for lower-income students, now cover only about 30% of expenses.”

Unfortunately, as long as college tuitions continue to steadily rise, food insecurity amongst students will as well. The main concern is, however, that these food insecurity issues create a rippling effect for even more problems. According to that same article, a survey found that “64 percent of these food insecure students faced some form of housing insecurity and 15 percent reported experiencing some form of homelessness in the past 12 months. Faced with this reality, these students are forced to pick up extra shifts, even if it means missing class, and some are dropping out.”

With limited options and access to decent food, college students are now turning to food stamps or food pantries on campus for help.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a University of California survey of 9,000 students from all 10 campuses showed that 19% said that they had too little to eat due to limited resources, while around 23% ate substandard food with little variation and limited nutrition.

According to that same article, more than 500 UC Berkeley students have applied for food stamps since January, up from 111 in all of 2016, and just 41 the year before. The food stamps, also known as CalFresh, allow eligible students to obtain up to $192 worth of groceries a month.

The CalFresh website for UC Berkeley states that students must meet income requirements, be a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident, be enrolled as at least a half time student, and work a minimum of 80 hours a month to be eligible for food stamps.

For those who may not meet those requirements but still struggle with food insecurity, on-campus food pantries have also become a popular aid for struggling students.

For instance, in Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey, there’s a food pantry that gives their students free donated food, no financial questions asked. Stocked with cereals, canned goods, and other staples like milk, eggs, and bread, students are welcome to take around five pounds of food at a time, according to

Although many of the students who visit the pantry are those who are from a low-income background, the pantry is open to everybody. This allows students who may feel food insecurity in-between paychecks or those who had to use all their earned money on a medical or personal emergency still have access to enough food until their next pay day.

UC Berkeley also has a food pantry to “provide emergency relief to help students continue on to successfully complete and obtain their degrees.” They’ve also experienced a huge spike in students taking advantage of these resources, recording 1,549 unique visitors for September only, according to the SF Chronicle.

Clearly, many schools nationwide are stepping up to help ease the snowballing of these student hunger problems. Although their efforts are commendable, many schools are just starting to create programs that are too premature to say for certain if they are sustainable. Perhaps a real solution to end food insecurity for students may not be to add more resources, but to take a long hard look at the schools’ integral budgeting system.

Hit-Or-Miss News Now Trending Video

Man Films Police Officer Taking Money From Berkeley Hot Dog Vendor

A University of California police officer was filmed taking money from the wallet of a Berkeley hot dog vendor, as he was citing the man for illegal vending. The video, posted on Facebook Sept. 9, has generated more than 10 million views and an outpouring of support, donations, and questions about the officer’s actions.

Thanks to some quick thinking and generosity, Martin Flores, the man who filmed the incident, also set up a GoFundMe account, “OfficialJustice4Juan&StreetVendors”  which surpassed its $10,000 goal within hours.

As Flores was taking his family to grab hot dogs after a Cal Bears game, he saw the officers citing the man now known as Juan, pulled out his phone, and started filming. Flores began questioning the officer about why he took the man’s money.

“You’re going to take his hard earned money,” rebuked Flores.

“Yup,” the officer responds.

“That’s not right, man,” Flores said to the officer. “People can drink on campus, during football games with no tickets, but a hard working man selling hot dogs, earning a living  gets his money taken away — and a ticket — wow!”

“He doesn’t have a permit,”  the officer replied. “Yup, this is law and order in action.”

However, it’s unclear if actually taking a civilian’s money is a standard protocol for police officers when citing food vendors. The East Bay Times reported that UCPD is, “investigating this weekend’s citation and apparent confiscation of money earned by a hot dog vendor on the University of California campus after a Golden Bears football game.”

By law, mobile food facilities must obtain a permit from the Alameda County Environmental Health website, but it’s unclear what agency actually enforces those permits on a day-to-day basis. Still, if Juan, or any other hot dog vendor in the city wanted to operate, there’s at least a $500 fee associated, according to Alameda County’s Environmental Health website.

This is just one instance in a larger battle street vendors face, and thankfully people like Flores exist, to help people like Juan, the Berkeley hot dog vendor, rebuild their lives after tragedy strikes.

Berkeley hot dog vendor

Martin Flores/Facebook

In just one day, Flores’ GoFundMe account received more than $30,000 in donations — and has already notified Juan. It would be cool to see that money go to help a few street vendors go legit, so everyone can enjoy delicious street food without fear of prosecution.

Health News Technology What's New

UC Berkeley is Giving $10K to Students That Develop Novel Plant-Based Meats and Seafood


Photo: Abby Dernburg

Whether you’re a fan of it or appalled by the idea, it’s become clear that plant-based meats are one of the key food trends for 2017 and for years to come. Highly innovative food tech companies have created plenty of plant-based meat products that are now beginning to mimic their real counterparts, like Impossible Foods’ plant-based bleeding burger, or New Wave Foods’ revolutionary vegan shrimp.

As the industry moves to developing new plant-based meats, they’re turning to a new, interested, and growing source of talent to make it possible: college students. Specifically, UC Berkeley students.

The Good Food Institute, a major advocate of plant-based and alternative meat products for the betterment of the world, has teamed up with UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SCET) to develop a Challenge Lab course and a competition centered around the development of plant-based proteins.

The Challenge Lab course is entitled “Innovative and Sustainable Plant-Based Protein: How to Produce More and Better Plant-based Meat,” and lasts all semester. It’s designed for teams of students of any educational background to create the next wave of plant-based foods in a delicious, affordable, and sustainable capacity.

Third-year nutrition student Hailey Zhou, who is in the course, told Foodbeast that teams in class aim to “develop a product (line) and a business model to accelerate the growth and innovation of this market segment, and hopefully create some impactful product to consumer choices taking a different look at plant protein sourcing and the production process.”

Throughout the semester, the class meets in four hours of lecture and eight hours of group work each week to develop their plant-based concepts, leading up to a massive pitch competition in front of plant-based meat experts with a $5,000 cash prize.


Photo: VegNews

Additionally, a special competition course dedicated to the development of new plant-based seafood products will also be run by the same team of the Good Food Institute and SCET will begin March 10th. This “Innovation Collider” course specifically focuses on using proteins beyond pea or soy protein to develop new plant-based seafoods, and can be taken for a couple of semester credits.  Undergrad and graduate students are invited to apply to compete by March 1st, and are also eligible for another $5,000 cash prize.

Students in the course and competition are both educated on current meat analogs in the industry, but challenged to use innovative protein sources and raw materials that aren’t heavily used to develop the latest plant-based meats and seafood. Zhou’s team, for example, is exploring the potential of underused plant like microalgae, kelp, or ancient grains such as millet to develop their products. Zhou made it clear though that plant proteins weren’t the only source for their innovation:

“Not only can we contribute to a more balanced agriculture and cultivation through sourcing, we can also look into upcycling food/ag waste or by products, and look at processes from fermentation to extrusion to explore potential to unlock nutrients and revive the discarded food.”

These ideas and many more will be necessary to develop the solutions expected out of these courses, but the students are up to the challenge. They want to not just create the next plant-based burger, but have an idea on how to create everything from vegan “scallops” to vegan “chicken.”

It will definitely be interesting to see what amazing plant-based products come out of these Berkeley courses — and who comes away with the cash prizes.

Those prizewinners could be the next big CEOs or trendsetters in the future of plant-based meat — and of sustainable food.