What we know about hunger on college campuses


Emerging research shows there is great need in addressing food insecurity among college students. A study by The Hope Center (formerly the WI Hope Lab), a leader on this issue, found that 56% of students surveyed reported either low or very low food security [1].

Local campuses are doing internal studies to better understand the food security of their students. In Wisconsin, UW-Milwaukee (UWM) surveyed students to find 86% of students said it was often or sometimes true that in the past 12 months, they worried whether food would run out before they got money to buy more [2]. UW-Parkside found that 26% of students reported that they sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat [3]. Students cite lack of financial resources as the driving factor in food insecurity (70% of UW-Parkside students). UWM found increased food insecurity for non-traditional, first generation and students of color.

These studies outline the barriers and complexities that exist for students in navigating student eligibility and accessing resources. The UWM Report found that 92.84% of students responded no to the questions, “Do you know where to receive food assistance on campus?” This proves a need for increased education and awareness of services available on campus.

Less than 30% of students in Hope Lab study and 20% of students at UW-Parkside reported participating in SNAP. With high rates of food insecurity, a student SNAP gap exists.

Federal SNAP policy denies eligibility to college students (enrolled half-time or more) unless they are working 20 hours a week or more or meet specific exemptions. These complexities are hard to understand and are barriers to participation that education and application assistance support can address.

Feeding Wisconsin, our member food banks and our partners are dedicated to address food insecurity on college campuses. Our SNAP College Hunger Toolkit will provide educational outreach materials to increase awareness of the SNAP Outreach Services and referrals to hunger relief and other community resources that our network provides.

[1] Hope Lab (March 2017). Hungry and Homeless in College. (available online at https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Hungry-and-Homeless-in-College-Report.pdf).

[2] UW-Milwaukee Student Association (2016-2017). Food Insecurity Report.

[3] UW-Parkside Senior Seminar in Sociology (2012). Food Insecurity among UW-Parkside Students.