Social Addendum: Stigma surrounding food insecurity is keeping students from receiving basic food needs


Alex Reich, Photographer

Members of the Basic Needs Center Food Pantry Noelle Galardi (Left), Tina Hanby and Katlyn Varney prepare grocery bags for pickup on Feb. 17 at Champinefu Lodge. The HSRC provides students with resources who may be struggling with food or housing insecurity. From OMN Archives.

Christine Castles, Columnist

Correction: A graf stating an opinion of the writer has been taken out of the article due to being an unsubstantiated accusation. The Barometer regrets this error.

Editor’s Note: This column does not represent the opinion of The Daily Barometer. This column reflects the personal opinions of the writer.

According to a study done through Oregon State University, food insecurity affects approximately a quarter of OSU students, but the stigma around food insecurity prevents students from accessing the resources they need.

One of the best campus resources for food is the Basic Needs Center, which was formerly known as the Human Services Resource Center. 

Providing food for those who struggle to afford it is necessary and can help them regain food security, but it does not prevent people from becoming food insecure in the first place. To achieve greater food security, it will be necessary to make institutional and cultural changes at OSU.

The BNC can also help connect students to resources outside of OSU such as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

Jacki Dougherty, second-year college student services and administration graduate student and graduate teaching assistant for SNAP outreach at OSU, said what stops a lot of people from seeking assistance is a lack of information.

“If it was like a scholarship for food, [the information] would be much more spread,” Dougherty said. 

This scholarship is easy to apply for, too; there’s no essay, no letters of recommendation and the BNC can help you fill it out. 

“Everybody that is eligible should apply,” Dougherty said. 

After all, if you meet the criteria to be accepted, there is no doubt that attaining food security will help you succeed.

According to Dougherty, systemic oppression makes her job difficult because food insecurity does not just come from not having food. It is a symptom of much larger structural and institutional issues in our society.

So solutions to food insecurity are never going to be about just food. 

If the basic well-being of students isn’t a priority, what is? Because ignoring basic needs makes it more difficult for students to succeed in other areas of their life, including, of course, at school.

This includes changing the mindset of students as well by destigmatizing food insecurity.

“Students with food insecurity are often just seen by what they lack… It acts like they are just a lack of food and not people that can take sovereignty and shape the environment,” said Hunter Calvert, a third-year environmental science student and student project coordinator at the BNC.

There are improvements being made and places where you can find free food on campus are becoming more common, such as at the College of Forestry which, at the beginning of 2022, opened its own food pantry. 

If you are struggling with food insecurity, housing or paying for other necessities, the BNC is currently located in Champinefu Lodge on Madison Avenue on the east side of campus. You can walk right in and will be greeted by super friendly people who have a wealth of information and resources.

The BNC wants to help you and even if for some reason they cannot help you succeed as much as they want, they can connect you with other resources while also maintaining a relationship for continued support.

Food insecurity is not uncommon and it most definitely is not limited to OSU, either. That 25% of people being food insecure also applies to the rest of Oregon. That number is even higher at about 30% for Black, Indigenous and other people of color. 

Oregon has neglected as an entire state to implement substantial institutional change to help people pay for food. The more people are unable to access nutrition, the less they will be able to contribute to the university or to the state.

Also like OSU, Oregon needs a culture change to address food insecurity and to treat people who are food insecure or at risk of being food insecure with dignity, respect and humanity.

As the BNC says on their food security page, “Hunger shouldn’t be a rite of passage for college students.” And they are right. Food security is a big problem to tackle, but by building community, reducing stigma and making resources accessible, we can reduce the negative impacts of food insecurity even when our institutions are not helping.

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