Student Basic Needs Report: Addressing food and housing insecurity crucial to postsecondary attainment
Across the United States, food and housing insecurity have become increasingly more prevalent issues for college students, and students at Arizona’s public universities are not immune to these challenges.
Aware of the challenges nationwide, the Arizona Board of Regents’ student regents led a work group to assess the scope of student food and housing insecurity at Arizona’s public universities. A new report, Student Food and Housing Insecurity, details results of a study undertaken to examine basic needs issues among students at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.
“Food and shelter are two of the basic physiological needs. Without them, it is nearly impossible for individuals to realize more complex needs – such as earning a college degree,” said ABOR Chair Lyndel Manson. “The board is grateful to Student Regent Nikhil Dave and former Student Regent Anthony Rusk for their leadership in bringing awareness of food and housing insecurity challenges facing students at our universities. These are real issues facing our students. Shining a light on these issues will help us help our students.”
Research has shown that food insecurity can affect students’ graduation rates. A Johns Hopkins study found that students who lacked consistent access to food were 43% less likely to graduate than their food-secure peers. Food insecurity is defined as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritious and safe food, while housing insecurity varies from the inability to pay rent and utilities to the need to move frequently.
The work group’s study found that while food insecurity is more prevalent among Arizona students, housing insecurity is also an issue.
The three universities reported the following rates of low or very low food insecurity among their student populations: ASU, 26%, NAU, 47% and UArizona, 34%. The universities also reported the following rates of housing insecurity: ASU, 14%, NAU, 19% and UArizona, 8%.
“Our study confirmed that there are Arizona students that do not have their basic needs met,” Regent Dave said. “In order to improve student success, intentional changes need to be made to provide additional resources to students with the most pressing financial need.”
Arizona’s public universities address food and housing security among students through a variety of means ranging from offering nourishment through food pantries to providing increased financial aid.
ASU’s Dean of Students Office tailors their response to an individual student’s situation. Students might receive meal cards or emergency funds among other aid responses. In an effort to address students’ insecurity long term, ASU will also work with a student to reevaluate their financial aid package. As a short-term stop-gap solution, ASU’s Pitchfork Pantry also provides nonperishable food to students.
NAU’s Louie’s Cupboard provides food to students, staff and faculty, and connects those in need with other resources in the community. If transportation is a barrier to securing help, Louie’s Cupboard provides transportation to the Flagstaff Family Food Center, so those in the Lumberjack community can take advantage of their food box program.
The Lumberjack Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) offers micro grants to students with unplanned or emergency financial needs. These grants address a range of requests, including student or family job loss, rent assistance, utilities support, car repairs and other unplanned expenses that can derail a students’ academic progress.
UArizona’s Campus Pantry expanded into the new Basic Needs Center, which provides hygiene products, toiletries, clothing, financial services and food, taking advantage of the school’s agricultural roots by providing produce from the sustainable Rooftop Garden on the UArizona campus. The pantry also offers boxed individual frozen meals through the Boxing Up Hunger program which harvests leftovers from catering events.
Although resources are available, many students do not take advantage of the programs. The work group found that 76% of food insecure students did not seek help.
“There is work to be done to destigmatize the issue,” former Student Regent Rusk said. “Food and housing insecure students need to feel comfortable using the resources that our Arizona public universities and community partners provide.”
Report recommendations include creating a Basic Needs Committee at each institution as well as preparing an annual report from each university detailing efforts to address and alleviate student food and housing needs.
Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 | Sarah.K.Harper@azregents.edu