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Food insecurity on campus is a serious issue for college students. 

Food insecurity has been the topic on Eckerd’s student’s tongues. 

Last semester, Associate Professor of Anthropology Jessie Fly taught the Anthropological Research Methods class, where student researchers sought information on food insecurity on Eckerd’s campus by conducting interviews and surveys. Florida PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) helped the class curate free-listing methods and the surveys to obtain the information. 

Together, they found that many college students struggled having adequate food due to time constraints, nutritional contents and dietary restrictions. Issues with COVID-19 also contributed to the food insecurity, as people reported they were not comfortable eating in-person at the cafeteria.

Fly believes that food insecurity is often a silent issue, as assumptions are usually made regarding college students being wealthy enough to afford tuition and therefore, having access to adequate food. 

“I think many college students recognize that they’re in a privileged position compared to people who don’t have access to an education,” Fly said. “So in that privileged position, do I get to admit or say to somebody ‘look, I don’t have access to the food I need to be healthy or food secure.’ Will anyone take me seriously?”

Fly also notes that food insecurity is a societal issue and the community around Eckerd’s campus struggles heavily with food insecurity. 

“It’s important to think of the wider community and what it looks like to proclaim the problem to the outside,” Fly said. “We need to keep encouraging people to include the outside world. To be inclusive is to be productive.” 

In Florida, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are equivalent to that of a food stamp, but through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).

Christyna Reagan, ECOS President and senior triple majoring in political science, womens and genders studies and american studies, applied for the SNAP benefits at the end of July 2022. She first considered applying while on her summer research trip throughout several southern states, where she met with many low-income students -- one of which in Alabama sharing their experience being on food stamps.  . 

At first, Reagan didn’t consider applying at all, as she assumed that students on the meal plan couldn’t qualify. Now, Reagan lives in the Omega Community, where she is not on the meal plan at all. 

“They were always vague in the wording,” Reagan said. “But I looked at the fine print of students qualifying and I decided to put in an application to see where it got me.”

It took the Florida Department of Children and Families, through the online portal Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency (ESS), 31 days to reach out with a phone interview after Reagan had submitted an application. They called early one morning, which came up as spam, so Reagan had to call the same number 15 times before attempting to call the customer service line. After being on hold for two hours, her phone died and she had to wait until next Monday when she finally got through and repeated the information she entered in her initial application, such as medications and Federal Work Study. She was told that she qualified and had to wait for the EBT to arrive. 

“I check every beginning and end of every day,” Reagan said. “The process has been awful and really slow. It has taken me over a month.” 

Last semester, Reagan struggled with food security as the cafeteria hours weren’t long enough with her off-campus night job schedule. That meant there was nowhere to get food on campus by midnight. Now, in Omega, she has to pay for her own groceries which has led to her putting it on a credit card and taking money out of student loans in order to provide food for herself. 

“For me, food insecurity looks like not knowing where food will come from,” Reagan said. “Knowing to bring tupperwares to what events and waiting until the end and hoping that there’s food to take home with you.”

In an effort to end food insecurity on campus, Reagan, as ECOS President, will collaborate with Religious Life and FLPIRG’s Zero Hunger campaign to open a food bank on campus. Though details are still being discussed, they hope to open it soon. 

For now, applications for SNAP benefits are available through the Florida Department of Children and Families online application portal

Reagan said that she’d be happy to help any student who wishes to apply. 

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