Thirty-six percent of U.S. college students struggle with food security, while 9 percent are classified as homeless.
The problem is worse among community college students, as 42 percent regularly experience food insecurity, which means that they have limited access to food due to lack of money.
These were key findings revealed in a recent study by Wisconsin HOPE Lab, who surveyed more than 40,000 students at 66 colleges and universities around the nation.
Wisconsin HOPE Lab employed the same questions the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses to quantify food insecurity globally, which focus on issues such as students skipping meals or losing weight due to financial restrictions.
Just about anyone can attest to the fact that it is difficult to concentrate when hungry.
It is only logical to conclude that students who find themselves wondering where their next healthy meal will come from will perform poorly in their classes. The same can be said for students who lack consistent housing.
The high cost of tuition seems to be the main factor leading to food and housing problems among students.
Activists have proposed several potential solutions. Ideas range from financial aid offering benefits for food and housing to providing free college tuition.
The truth is that all of the proposed solutions have drawbacks. We are not likely to see financial aid reform anytime soon. Students are struggling today.
If no help is offered, many will drop out and spend their adult lives earning a living near the poverty line.
The Community College Completion Corps reports that of the students who drop out of college, 60 percent plan to complete their degree at a later date, while only 38 percent actually return.
It is easy to see why the majority of college dropouts do not return to school. College is an investment, but it is not one many are likely to make because money tomorrow does not buy diapers for one’s children today.
The good news is that we do not have to wait on financial aid reform to make a positive difference now.
Scripture tells us that pure and undefiled religion is that which cares for widows and orphans (James 1:27). In other words, believers ought to care for those in need.
Church history is full of stories of the generosity of believers. In “The Passing of Peregrinus,” a second-century satirist, Lucian of Samosata, wrote of the Christians’ extravagant care for their jailed brethren.
Lucian tells how, from the break of dawn, Christians would come to the prison. They would bring “elaborate meals,” read from their “sacred books,” and some of the brethren even “slept inside with [them] after bribing the guards.”
Nicholas of Myra’s acts of generosity in the early fourth century are well documented.
He anonymously paid the dowries of three daughters of a poor man. These dowries made them eligible for marriage, without which their only source of income would have been prostitution.
Such acts earned him the title Saint Nicholas or “Sinter Klaas” – the basis of our modern legend of Santa Claus.
Believers are called to acts of love and generosity. The church today can lessen the stress of food and housing insecurity of college students by “adopting” them.
Many churches have programs like this, but most tend to stop at sharing a meal once in a while.
Pastors are becoming less likely to stay in parsonages on church grounds. Many believe that they can have a greater impact for Christ if they live around non-Christian neighbors.
Why not open that unused parsonage to a few college students? Why not encourage families to adopt a college student who can live with the family while they are studying for their degree?
Churches can employ their own survey at a local college. Once the findings are recorded, they can set out to meet the needs of students who are food insecure through weekly meals.
The point is a great opportunity exists for the Kingdom of God if believers think and act creatively. We really have a chance to be the church.
With this kind of support, many more students will be able to graduate. The next generation of industry leaders will have a larger percentage of godly men and women among them.
We may never know the kind of impact that will bring.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a new series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. Learn more about EthicsDaily.com’s “Emerging Voices” and “U:21” series here.