Food, Financial, and Housing Security

If you are experiencing difficulty in making ends meet, you are not alone. The 2018 Wisconsin Hope Lab Survey, “Still Hungry and Homeless,” gathered that 36% of 4-year college students were food insecure in the 30 days preceding the survey, right around 36% were experiencing housing insecurity, and 9% 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 obscure access to resources.

UMass is committed to supporting students experiencing food and housing insecurity through a number of on-campus programs and off-campus partnerships. In addition, the Dean of Students Office has formed the Food Security Working Group, which is a multi-disciplinary team who meets regularly to discuss food insecurity, identify root causes, and implement solutions.