Letter to the Editor: Food Insecurity

Dear RIT, students, staff and faculty,

Have you noticed when grabbing something from Sol’s Underground here at RIT how ridiculous the prices are? Handing them your last $20 bill for a little amount of food that may not even last for the week is very common for some students.

Some students come from poor families and are already in debt from the absurd cost of tuition, arriving here with little to no money. Knowing college students are already broke from tuition and housing, why would RIT make their products — food and other necessities — crazy expensive? Are you trying to make even more profit off us? If products were cheaper, more students would have the ability to purchase them and you would be selling more merchandise. Because items are overpriced, less of them will be sold and they will sit on the shelf until the expiration date and will eventually be thrown out or, hopefully, donated.

Why do I care about food insecurity? Simple. The way I was raised, you earned what you got. Growing up, my mom was a waitress and my dad was a construction worker. With rent, doctor, car and insurance bills and two kids involved with school activities, there was little to no money left over. I was taught how to shop cheap and to make meals with what I had. The struggles that I experienced when I was younger helped me appreciate how fortunate I am to have the things and help that I have now. My childhood ignited a spark in me to help others, and I hope RIT would want to do the same.

There is a Facebook page called RIT FoodShare — they’re attempting to eliminate food insecurity for not only students but also faculty and staff at RIT. Food insecurity means going without sufficient healthy food like fruits and vegetables, leading to a depletion of health. This is not a recent problem, as students have been struggling for a while. I have just learned about it, and it’s quite upsetting knowing students here at RIT are having to go without food.  Wouldn’t that upset you as a parent, knowing your child is not eating regularly just because they simply can’t afford it?

RIT FoodShare was founded in April 2015 and has continued to this day supporting people who are in need. We need to raise awareness of the organization so people know they have a place to go to when they are hungry. Posters, emails and other advertisements are great ways to spread the word and to let people know that they aren’t the only ones struggling in this world and that there is help.

Continuing my investigation on why food insecurity exists, I started to compare the prices from RIT at Sol’s Underground to a local Walmart. I noticed that a 3-liter jug of water costs $3.09 bought from RIT while the same jug from Walmart is $0.98. I think it is bizarre to see water that price when it is highly stressed for students to stay hydrated on campus.

Furthermore, students are notorious for eating ramen, a cheap quick meal. However, a six-pack of ramen from Sol’s Underground is $3.69, whereas at Walmart a 12-pack only costs $1.94 — meaning at Walmart, you can get double the quantity and it would still be cheaper than buying from Sol’s Underground.

Living at RIT, you are bound to run out of things you first packed from home, like toothpaste such as Colgate Optic White. At Sol’s, it costs $7.99. At Walmart it costs $3.96. See the pattern yet?

RIT is located in Henrietta, a city known for its hot, sunny summer days and its cold, snowy winter nights. The weather change initiates the cold plague, where one person gets the common cold and it spreads like rapid fire. Students who are far away from home and can’t get off campus are left with no choice but to buy cough medicine from RIT. I found that the price for Theraflu, a cold and cough medicine, is $16.49 on campus, but only $11.44 at Walmart. This is evidence showing how overpriced items on campus can lead to the problem of food insecurity. People just simply can’t afford it.


Sol's Underground

Food insecurity can jeopardize a student’s way to success on campus. It can potentially impact their academics, wellness and behavior — all of which play a great role in student retention and graduation rates.

Food insecurity is a growing problem among college students, but little is known about how it is related to academic outcomes. Cady L. Clare, author of “Food insecurity as a Student Issue” published in the Journal of College and Character, recommends that campus administrators determine the scope of food insecurity on their campuses, then develop short- and long-term responses in partnership with nonprofits, governmental agencies and faculty to alleviate its negative impact on students. It is mentioned that food insecurity is associated with students who have neglected their academics, reduced courses or considered dropping out of college due to their finances. The research on hunger demonstrates the possible negative outcomes that can occur in students with food shortages.

Food insecurity may have adverse effects on student academic performance and is a factor to be considered by college administrators, faculty and students. As concluded in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, "students at higher risk of food insecurity included those who reported living alone and those who reported being single parents. Students identifying themselves as African American or as multiracial were also at increased risk for food insecurity.” Food-insecure students were more likely than food-secure students to report a lower GPA (2.0-2.49) versus a higher GPA (3.5-4.0).

RIT students, faculty and staff are called Tigers because we are supposed to be looking out for one another, encouraging others to grow and succeed to the best of their ability. If you notice someone is not eating regularly or seems to be struggling, say something and offer help. If you were in that situation, wouldn’t you want someone to lend a hand and help you?

Bringing attention to student, faculty and staff health is something that needs to be focused on more than grades and money.  Mental and physical health is important to everyday success and everyone’s future. If health declines because of food insecurity, it will have a huge impact on their behavior and mindset. Discussing and raising awareness about food insecurity will not only help students, but also make the campus a better place.

Think about it,

Alyssa Kingston