EDITORIAL: Food insecurity at colleges to be studied

EDITORIAL: Food insecurity at colleges to be studied

It sometimes seems that whenever government perceives a problem but doesn’t know what to do about it, the automatic reaction is to conduct a study.

But maybe the urge to “do something” should be resisted until you have enough information to make a sound decision on precisely what to do. Thus the need for a study.

That’s why the General Assembly wants to know more about a problem that will strike many as incongruous in Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the nation: the problem of food insecurity among students in the state-run college and university system.

According to an Associated Press report, about half of the state-run community colleges have some kind of food pantry program in effect, to help feed their students. 

For example, as many as 300 people will visit the food pantry at Manchester Community College on a busy day, to help them make ends meet with free groceries. And at Middlesex Community College in Middletown, the number of students served by the school’s food pantry increased by 68% during the 2018-19 academic year.

These programs have sprung up in recent years to help address a growing problem of food insecurity, which is why the legislators want to know more — including the number of students served by food pantries, the amount of food distributed, the schools’ policies on the suspension of meal plans when tuition is not paid, and the availability of food during holidays and vacation periods.

The current federal plan to tighten the eligibility rules for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) will probably exacerbate the problem.

The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents for Higher Education are to report back by Feb. 1 of next year.

“The unfortunate reality is that food insecurity is a large and growing problem on CSCU campuses,” said Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

Once the state knows more about this situation, it is to be hoped that appropriate action will be taken. The goals should be that no student goes to class hungry, no student goes home hungry and no student goes home to a hungry family.