Skip to Main Content
Idaho State University

Idaho State University mascot Benny the Bengal

Poverty & Hunger

Quick Facts

In Idaho:

  • 1 in 6 Idahoans are food insecure
  • 1 in 4 children in Idaho are food insecure

At Idaho State University:

  • 50% of children enrolled at the campus Early Learning Center qualify for need-based USDA food assistance
  • Over 60% of Idaho State undergraduate students qualify for the need-based Pell Grant
  • Over 70% of Idaho State students receive some type of financial aid
  • 1% access emergency food assistance at Benny’s Pantry (and we accept this number to increase)

Hunger in Higher Education: A Student
Health Concern

The stress literally melts from her face as she picks out vegetables, soup, and pasta. She and her husband are both undergraduate students. He recently quit his job because he got into the health professions program and no longer has time to work. She is a part-time office assistant in the afternoons. Right now, finances are especially tight after the unexpected car maintenance. They are good students who are good with their money, but the little they started with only spreads so far. After a few minutes of shopping, she leaves with almost 20 pounds of free food from the campus food pantry. This will help them get through until her next paycheck.

College is hard enough without the stress of worrying about having enough food. But food insecurity in higher education is becoming a major student health concern across the nation. Although sacrifice is part of many worthwhile pursuits, lack of good nutrition in pursuit of education does not make sense in our land of plenty. We are moving beyond the nostalgic idea of the poor, starving college student and on to the serious concern of student hunger.

The majority of well paying jobs require some higher education, whether it is a technical certification or a Bachelor’s degree. Many college students scrape by on limited means while spending thousands of dollars on tuition, textbooks, housing and living expenses. Higher education costs have increased dramatically over the last 30 years, well beyond the rate of inflation. Many students work part-time or even full-time jobs on top of going to school and take out student loans to finance their education.

It is well documented that good nutrition is essential for optimal learning, growth and development. The brains of traditional-aged college students are still developing. Some nontraditional and transfer students may have children at home to feed as well as their own education to support. Missing meals to save money happens not infrequently, though it may affect learning and long-term health.

Colleges and universities around the country are responding to this issue by opening campus food pantries. The College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) lists 70 schools across the country which offer food assistance to their students, staff and faculty. On-campus food pantries offer accessible hunger relief directly to those who need it. They are connected to the needs to the community and can serve as a resource and education centers.