Student Hunger in America, It Exists

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Estephany Haro

El Observador

As the summer comes to an end, college students across the Bay Area are getting ready to go back to school. But instead of worrying about what to wear the first day of class or if friends are in the same classes, many of them are worrying about whether they’ll have the resources to eat throughout the semester.

It’s a reality that a big number of students go through. According to the Mercury News, a survey conducted in 2016 by the University of California shows that one in five students in the University of California System go hungry at school and a report by California State University says that about one in four of its students don’t have enough money to eat.

Isaac Patiño, a fourth-year art student at San Jose State University is part of the statistics. “My first three years I would only have two meals a day, sometimes just one meal,” Patiño said. “There were days where I didn’t have any money and my friends would invite me over to their home and that’s where I would eat.”

Patiño moved to San Jose in 2012 from Modesto, Calif. to attend SJSU and even though he shares an apartment with three people he says that sometimes he had to choose between paying his rent or eating. “First year was so hard, I had come from a place where there was food all day and I never thought I would be in that situation…. the high rent has definitely been a factor.”

However, Patiño is one of thousands of students at SJSU that go through or have gone hungry at school. An SJSU student Affairs survey shows that “approximately half of SJSU students are sometimes skipping meals due to cost.”

However, not all students might know that there are resources available for them. “I never knew of any program, maybe because I was so busy all the time…I worked full-time, plus my classes so that wouldn’t give a lot of free time to do research,” Patiño said.

According to the Mercury News, UC Berkeley became the first school in the Bay Area to partner with the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Then, following its steps, Cal State East Bay and Laney College, in Oakland, also started working with the food bank.

However, there are also resources available for students who go through hunger at SJSU. Students can have access to Food Shelves, which are self-serve informal pantries and there isn’t any need for registration where students can just stop and take the items needed. There’s also CHEW (Cooking Healthy, Eating Well), these are free cooking classes and all students that participate take free food and tips. The “Just in Time” program is partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank which is on campus once a month and have groceries for students.

“I wish I would have known about these [programs], it would have made a big difference in my education,” said Patiño, who is graduating in December and hopes to create awareness with his own family members and siblings who will attend college soon.