From the coast to the desert and all points in between, college students experience hunger. Many students, especially those who attend community colleges, work full time, raise children, and are pursuing second careers. They handle these competing stresses while also facing multiple financial pressures. According to a 2016 HOPE Lab survey of 33,000 students at 70 community colleges, 56% of students experienced low or very low food security, and more than half were housing insecure. Not surprisingly, the study found that “basic needs insecurities are associated with poor academic outcomes.”
In response to this growing need, Feeding San Diego recently welcomed seven new College Partners to join our fight to end hunger. Our common goal is to increase access to free food, both geographically and financially, to fuel students for learning.
The Feeding San Diego College Partnership Program brings food directly to higher education campuses so students, staff, and their families can stretch their food dollars—and avoid stops at multiple locations to meet their food needs. Providing high-quality food directly on campus allows students to concentrate on what they’re there for: studying, learning, and preparing to enter the workforce.
Feeding San Diego currently partners with Cal State San Marcos, MiraCosta College, San Diego College Continuing Education Foundation, San Diego Mesa College, San Diego Miramar College, and Southwestern College, at both its main and its San Ysidro campuses.
Most of the colleges have their own food pantries, where students can secure nonperishable food while they are on campus. Connecting College Partners to Feeding San Diego’s Retail Rescue Program enables the pantries the potential to offer free fresh produce, proteins, and prepared foods each week.
In addition to the food pantries, our college partnerships currently provide some campuses with produce for a free monthly farmer’s market. Feeding San Diego provides huge totes filled with a wide variety of fresh produce. The free farmer’s markets are accompanied by a campus band or DJ, student outreach, raffles, or other special events. This effort by the campus administrators is an intentional way to reduce the stigma of food assistance, making food access convenient and pleasant for anyone in need. People who struggle to afford fresh fruits and vegetables appreciate this free market offered where they study and work.
Through the Retail Rescue Program, food industry partners donate food that otherwise would have ended up in the landfill. Feeding San Diego has created a decentralized food recovery system to capture that high-quality food before it goes to waste and get it quickly and efficiently to people facing hunger.
Not only does Retail Rescue help achieve our mission of creating a hunger-free San Diego, but it also keeps wholesome food from needlessly being added to the landfill, where it creates methane gas and adds to global warming. Retail rescue is a win-win: for the food donors, the recipients and our environment.
Looking forward, Feeding San Diego will be increasing College Partnerships across the county in the coming year. We look forward to helping nourish and energize students as they work toward earning their degrees and thriving in their communities.