Ways to Help

Supporting Students, Breaking Barriers

The 2021 Hope Center Survey, “Still Hungry and Homeless in College” gathered that 29% of 4-year college students were food insecure in the 30 days preceding the survey, right around 48% were experiencing housing insecurity, and 14% were homeless.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. You may also hear the term “hunger,” which is distinct from food insecurity. According to Feeding America, hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level. College students are particularly vulnerable given their relative lack of income, the increasing cost of higher education, and competing priorities such as paying rent, tuition, and utilities.

There are many definitions of homelessness, but generally the term refers to someone who does not have a safe, permanent, year-round place to live. Homelessness can look many different ways—it could mean sleeping in a shelter, couch-surfing at friends’ houses, or living in places not fit for habitation such as a tent, a car, or living on the street. Many homeless college students face difficulty with housing security over breaks and summer, where on-campus housing may or may not be an option.

Food insecurity and homelessness do not occur in isolation, but rather are byproducts of systemic inequities that privilege some and disadvantage others. Racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and religious oppression often further marginalize those who are experiencing food insecurity and homelessness, and can obscure access to resources.

     

    We are shifting to a culture of care, where every member of the community is treated with dignity and respect, where everyone has access to adequate housing and food, and where each person feels they matter.  This kind of change is a tall order, and requires a commitment from all areas of our campus community. We invite you to consider how you might become involved. Some options include:

    • Collaborating with your student organization or athletic team to host a Student Care Supply Closet Drive
    • Giving a gift to the Student Care Supply Closet
    • Giving a gift to the Student Care and Emergency Response Fund (SCERF), which helps to fund our Microgrant Program
    • Giving a gift to the Food Security Fund which supports the work of the Food Security Working Group
    • Helping to raise awareness across campus about the dynamics of food and housing insecurity
    • Posting on social media about resources available to students in need

    For more information on ways to help or to request assistance with planning a program, contact the Dean of Students Office at 413-545-2684 or doso@umass.edu