“I lost twenty-five pounds in a few months. I would go to class and lack focus, falling asleep sometimes because of the fatigue. At work, they would ask me if I needed a break because of the tiredness they saw in my eyes, my body, and my performance. But I couldn’t turn down a shift of work; if you worked for so long you would get a free meal. That was sometimes my only guaranteed meal.
I am a college student in West Virginia. I have struggled with hunger. I still struggle with hunger.
No one realizes the trauma being hungry causes a person. I worked as much as I could my junior year of college. Carrying a full-time schedule and having a part-time job that would only guarantee me 8-38 hours a week. Some weeks I had enough to get by, but many I couldn’t scrap up enough to pay my rent, let alone buy groceries.
Going hungry affected me mentally, physically, and emotionally. It caused me to lose my energy, my focus, and my health. At some points that semester I couldn’t figure out if I was hungry, or if I was depressed because of how much I was sleeping. As college students so much is expected of us. But if I am desperately worrying about my next meal, how am I supposed to perform at school, do my homework, and work a job?
That semester I visited our school food bank for the first time. It wasn’t easy to accept that I needed to go to the food bank, but I was desperate. The food bank on campus is only opened for two days a week and two hours a day, which presented additional challenges. But I found time to go.
The first time you walk into a food bank you can feel the stigma heavy on your shoulders. Nevertheless, you walk in. The food bank supplied me with grapes, canned meat, milk, eggs, and canned food. It was the first time in months that I had a well-balanced meal and fresh food.
Just like it was for me, food banks are many college students only lifeline. To get SNAP as a college student, you must meet work requirements. Although many college students work, most employers will not guarantee the hours you need to receive SNAP. If the application process requests proof of employment from a specific week that you worked 19 hours you will not get approved, even if the next week you worked 30 hours.
I just started my senior year of college this year. I have a 400 hour internship to complete in 14 weeks, a full time school schedule, and I try to stay involved with clubs that do community service. With this schedule, I can only work around eight hours a week. I am a regular at our school food bank, there they provide me with nutritional food and even recipes on how to cook foods that are uncommon such as lentils. Every time I walk in, they ask, “Are you here to shop?” and that simple greeting makes it feel normal.
The thing is, it should be normal. We all deserve to eat.”
— A West Virginian Student
Hunger is not just an issue faced by those across the world or in the most rural of areas; it hits our schools, too. So many university students have to go without the nutrients they need due to a myriad of obstacles. Campus hunger is real. And it’s happening here in West Virginia.
That is why we have to support SNAP and ensure our lawmakers don’t allow SNAP benefits to be cut back. Check out more on that here.
We must also support our local food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens. They provide meals to our neighbors across the state. They probably help someone you know! To find your local food bank, pantry or soup kitchen to support, click here.