College is expensive, and that’s the easiest way to say it. Along with tuition, many students face problems with housing, books and supplies, and food insecurity. Students have long, often hard days with mentally tasking subjects and assignments, and to have the energy for those tasks, they have to eat. Meal plans can be extremely expensive on top of tuition, and eating out every day isn’t feasible for a wallet, especially in a college town where prices can often be inflated. How do you deal with a problem like this, a seemingly unending problem that you have to solve at least three times a day? Below, I’ll give tips for dealing with food insecurity in college, and ways to combat it.
First things first: be sure to reach out! Colleges often have programs for students in these situations, and you might be able to obtain money or some sort of bonus to help. Check for student grocery stores, soup kitchens, or food banks in the area. Are there any non-profits that specialize in this department? I would advise being open and honest to college advisors and the financial aid office – often, they’re the ones who can give you the most comprehensive and helpful answers. Don’t be afraid to reach out – the cost of college, along with the many additional costs that come with it, is nothing to be ashamed about.
Secondly, learn how to make some basic, easy meals that are sustainable as well as reasonable. Obviously, as a student, you can’t be making steaks every day for dinner, but you can cook a pot of pasta and have that for dinner one day, and lunch for maybe the next two days. I would advise checking Youtube for meal prep videos since they can be authentic to the college experience (i.e having an hour to make a dinner that is also fulfilling). Try to avoid unhealthy snacking – while cheap, the snacks aren’t often fulfilling, and you might end up craving something too soon after.
I would also advise being aware of the local area you’re in – what days do some restaurants offer discount prices? Free drinks? Are some of them connected to Snackpass, where you can cash in points? Don’t forget about the bills you pay and how you can benefit from them – does your phone carrier have an app or offer rewards? (I know T-Mobile has an app that lets you take advantage of “T-Mobile Tuesdays.”) Check with your credit card company as well! And this is a big one – social events on campus often have tons of free food, and they’ll advertise just like that – by saying there’s free pizza or donuts somewhere, and you should definitely take advantage of that!
I won’t go on about ways one can save a lot of money, like avoiding a coffee here and there, because there is a good chance students facing this problem are already hyper-aware of that. Plus, sometimes you just crave something, and you can afford it, so it’s perfectly okay to have that treat. Rather, I would focus mainly on reaching out to people who can help so that you know you’re not alone, and you can have one less thing to worry about as you complete your studies. Of course, one can help alleviate the stress on their wallet by cooking more or buying items on sale, but there are definitely additional ways of helping alleviate food insecurity beyond that. I wish the best of luck to those facing this situation.