Monday, February 22, 2016

Does Your Campus Have A Food Pantry?

Normally, I don't pay attention to the mass emails that flood my inbox at work, but for whatever reason, this one caught my eye. "University of Iowa Food Pantry Survey" it said, and it was from the University of Iowa Student Government. It was a short email and this is what it said:
With the cost of college on the rise, the cost-burden of housing increasing, and wages being outpaced by inflation, poverty and food insecurity is a more pervasive issue on many of our nations college campuses. Campus food pantries look to alleviate this issue of food insecurity faced by you and many of your colleagues and classmates.This is a survey gauge the level of food insecurity University of Iowa students face when attending Iowa to develop a food pantry.  Please take the time to fill out this short and anonymous survey on your experience with food insecurity.
It also included a link to the survey (which is here.) Now, this appears to be real. So far, my hard drive has yet to melt down and alarms have yet to start blaring indicating that the firewall has been breached and is shredding our servers at work. So I'm going to come to the conclusion that this is, in fact, very real.

The student government is gathering information to assess the need for a possible food pantry on campus.  Let's repeat that and take stock of the world we live in where this is a real fucking email. This is really happening. This is a thing. 

I find myself both sad and outraged that this survey is even necessary. Everyone knows that college costs too much, but there's a palpable difference between knowing the numbers and finding the proof in your inbox. Students might be going hungry. That's how much college costs. Students might be having to choose between going to class and paying tuition and eating food. That's how much college costs.

And maybe we don't need a food pantry on campus. I sure as hell hope not- but the idea had to come from somewhere. The Student Government (I would hope) wouldn't send out this out in a vacuum. Someone- enough people- had to make enough noise to make a survey worthwhile. Someone wanted to find out if we needed one of these things.

This can only lead me to conclude the following:

1. If you have to choose between food and tuition, choose food.
2. If your product costs so much that people have to choose between paying for it or eating, make a cheaper product.

I saw something about a Dia Sin Latinos up in Madison float by the other week- what about a Day Without Millennials? All these Baby Boomers need our blood, sweat and tears to pay for their retirements. And in the system we have yet to inherit, that they still control, their love of these creaking, sclerotic bureaucracies that proliferate administrators instead of educators, that start arms races for college amenities- the cost of which get passed on to students- this should be the struggle that defines our generation.

Should college be free? I don't know. (In the debate between tuition free vs debt free, I tend to come down on the side of debt free, but there are merits to both arguments- and for sure, it needs to be a hell of a lot cheaper.) But if I'm not wrong about this- and man, I really hope that there's something more to this- then something needs to change.

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