On May 11, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab jointly released the results of the first state-level study of food and housing insecurity and homelessness among college students. Massachusetts is the first state to team with HOPE Lab Founder Sara Goldrick-Rab and her team to look at these issues from a system level, with the goal of having the data inform policy interventions. As the Massachusetts report indicates, the state's results closely mirror the findings of a national HOPE Lab study, with a few critical exceptions, particularly in food and housing security between Hispanic students and non-Hispanic white students, where the differences were more pronounced than in the national sample.
44% of community college students reported some degree of food insecurity
At a time when private colleges have been luring students with sushi bars, fresh-tossed salads, and other increasingly lavish meals, Susan Benitez, 30, an Army veteran and student government president at Bunker Hill Community College, said the problem of housing and food insecurity is more widespread than many realize.
“There are days where I can’t even afford to buy a chip . . . and I know I can go up there [to the food pantry] to get bread,” said Benitez, who is graduating with two associate’s degrees and was just accepted to Stanford.
“You can’t study if you are hungry.”
The third annual Massachusetts Department of Higher Education survey of the Commonwealth's public colleges and universities found that most campuses are seeing an increase in student hunger and homelessness. Many reasons were proposed to explain the increases, including cost of living, lack of family support, low-paying jobs and financial aid issues.
24 out of 29 campuses
are aware of students who are homeless
Most colleges said they have students living in shelters, cars, or on their friends' couches, and some described students living in coffee shops and fast-food restaurants, or outside in warmer weather.
“Quite frankly, it’s heartbreaking to know the kind of challenges they’re facing, and they still come to school, and they still try to succeed,” Patricia Gentile, president of North Shore Community College, told The Boston Globe.
Four campus-based organizations – the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center, and the Student Public Interest Research Groups – surveyed college students across the United States on food insecurity between March and May 2016. Findings of the survey include:
“My concern is that we’re seeing a huge increase in the 18–24 homeless youth population nationally, and I want to make sure that these individuals don’t become the chronically homeless at 50 or 60.”
–Linn Torto, Executive Office of Housing & Human Services, Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing & Homelessness
In 2015, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) began collecting student-level survey data on food and housing insecurity at community colleges across the nation.
NSCC used the HOPE Lab model to administer a survey in September 2016. The results indicate that 32 percent of the 6,500 students at North Shore Community College are “hungry,” compared with 20 percent of community college students nationwide. Nineteen percent are homeless, compared with 13 percent of community college students nationally.
“[We see] more students asking for emergency loans to pay living expenses and students trying to opt out of the meal plans to save money on their overall University bill.”
–University of Massachusetts Amherst
In response to the 2016 Hunger & Homelessness Survey
On October 28, 2016, BHCC President Pam Eddinger spoke to WBUR's Radio Boston about the challenge of fighting hunger on college campuses. Listen here.
Department of Health and Human Services
Find free and affordable food and housing options near you.
Dial 2-1-1 or visit the website below to get connected with a variety of vital resources in your community 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Bristol Community College
Mobile Food Market
Bunker Hill Community College
Cape Cod Community College
Family Pantry at Cape Cod CC
Greenfield Community College
GCC Food Pantry
Massasoit Community College
Massasoit Food Pantry
North Shore Community College
Northern Essex Community College
Springfield Technical Community College
Center for Access Services
Bridgewater State University
Food Bank 4 U
Framingham State University
Salem State University
Westfield State University
Navigators Food Pantry
Students: If you are looking for help but your school isn't listed, contact your campus' office of student services for more information.