Students in prestigious US universities too poor to even buy food
Substandard diets. Source: Shutterstock

They’re going hungry and are on substandard diets – You would think these are descriptions of people living in impoverished parts of the world. Instead, these refer to students in prestigious universities in a global superpower nation, United States of America.

Many students in the state of California are increasingly turning to food stamps so they can afford to buy the groceries they need, a report in SF Gate found.

Over 500 UC Berkeley students have applied for food stamps from CalFresh since January, nearly five times the number of students who did in the whole of 2016 (111 applications) and 12 times of  2015 (41 students) according to the publication.

With the food stamps, known as Cal Fresh, students can get up to US$192 per month for food at grocery stores. This year, the CalFresh is seeing an acceptance rate of approximately 73 percent to obtain food stamps, up from 62 percent in 2015.

Berkeley student Esteban Vasquez told SF Gate: “Sophomore year was the most difficult. I was out of the dorms and didn’t have a meal plan anymore. It was just rough.”

Vasquez said:

“It’s a huge sigh of relief knowing I can walk into a grocery store and purchase the items I need,”

To be eligible for the stamps, students have to satisfy these requirements, as stated in a document for CalFresh on UC Berkeley’s website: US citizenship, enrolment as full-time or half-time student, working minimum 80 hours month and making less than US$1,980 per month.

This “food insecurity” goes beyond UC Berkeley’s gates. Close to one in five students (19 percent) at University of California’s 10 campuses report they had too little to eat “due to limited resources”, according to a survey of UC’s 9,000 students in 2015. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) said they regularly ate substandard food with little variation.

With Cal Fresh, students can get up to $192 per month for food at grocery stores. Source: Shutterstock

UC president Janet Napolitano said in 2016 she would spend US$302,000 at each of the 10 campuses over two years so more students can register for food stamps and to expand food pantries.

This trend sounds eerily similar to what’s going on across the pond. Both US and UK students are facing mounting debt as tuition costs in higher education have risen in recent years, shouldering huge amounts of debt burden from the moment they begin studying. In the US, 42 million Americans owe around US$1.33 trillion

A research by the UK’s National Union of Students Extra (NUS Extra) in August found close to half of Britain’s students are concerned about having money to afford essential groceries and other basic costs such as travel and books.

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