When Students Are Hungry: An Examination of Food Insecurity in Higher Education

Researching a widespread problem and collecting the diverse campus solutions that seek to address it

As we learned with The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States, a report we coauthored in 2011 with United Farm Workers and Oxfam America, the first step to  solving a pervasive, complicated problem is to study it and define its scope, and begin gathering resources and examples of ways to address it.

Report Cover thumbnail photoWhen Students Are Hungry: An Examination of Food Insecurity in Higher Education (download PDF) is based on  research collected in early 2018. It draws heavily on work by the Bon Appétit Fellows, its waste programs manager, and one of its nutrition project managers, a registered dietitian.

Those projects inspired Bon Appétit’s senior leadership to recognize campus food insecurity as one of the most pressing issues facing our guests and clients and to dedicate resources to studying it.

Food insecurity on college campuses first appeared on the company’s radar in 2014 after we began partnering with the Food Recovery Network to set up food recovery programs on our college campuses, and began looming larger in fall 2016 when we received the first of several requests to help university administrators establish food pantries. In January 2017, our waste programs manager created and disseminated a food pantry setup guide for Bon Appétit’s college dining teams with examples and best practices. One of the company’s registered dietitians, whose college roommate had struggled with food insecurity, attended a Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) conference and began advocating internally for proactive steps to combat the problem. Inquiries about whether its mini-market locations could accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits followed. (Under current government regulations, the answer is no.)

When Students Are Hungry was written by Bon Appétit National Marketing Manager Cheryl Sternman Rule, who holds a Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she worked as a researcher and co-authored a three-part book series on higher education. She was assisted by Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Jack’s book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, will be published in 2019 by Harvard University Press.

Download When Students Are Hungry: An Examination of Food Insecurity in Higher Education


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