According to a food-accessibility survey released by the Georgetown University Student Association, 54 percent of 351 surveyed students said they have experienced hunger but were unable to buy food for cost-related reasons.
The survey points to a lack of accessible food options on campus as 42.2 percent of surveyed students said they experienced hunger without access to food due to cost at least once a week.
Sixty-three percent of the respondents were students on need-based financial aid, while 36 percent were students in the Georgetown Scholarship Program.
According to the survey, three of the main barriers to access food were the time needed to go to a grocery store, the distance required to purchase affordable groceries and the hours of dining options available on campus.
The shortage of affordable food options prevented 68.9 percent of surveyed students from eating as healthily as desired.
GUSA Socioeconomic Inclusivity Policy Team Chair Emily Kaye (COL ’18), who is also a member of the GSP board, said potential solutions include extending O’Donovan Hall’s hours and opening an on-campus food pantry for students. This summer, The George Washington University established a food pantry, where students in need can access free food when they have no other options.
Daniel Marshall (SFS ’19) said it is important to ensure there is no stigma associated with the potential introduction of a food pantry.
“Right now we are trying to figure out what the best plan should be to propose to the administration. Essentially what we are trying to do is isolate the issue that is very apparent within the administration that we don’t have all the resources necessary,” Marshall said.
Marshall said it is important the food pantry be accessible but discrete, to ensure the pantry is useable for all students.
According to Cam White (MSB ’19), who is on the GUSA Socioeconomic Inclusivity Policy Team, the survey results highlight a pressing campus issue that often goes overlooked.
“It’s important because Georgetown, being the inclusive campus that it claims to be, must look at all aspects of the student experience in its pursuit for inclusivity, which definitely extends to food accessibility,” White wrote in an email to The Hoya. “There should not be hungry stomachs at an elite university like Georgetown.”
Following the release of the survey’s results, Kaye met with student leaders including CEO of Students of Georgetown, Inc. Taylor Tobin (COL ’17), Director of Vital Vittles Max Shapiro (COL ’17), GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and GUSA Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) to develop action points.
GUSA is looking into options including Aramark donating its spoilage, Epicurean & Company hosting discount nights to fundraise for food accessibility over breaks at the restaurant and creating a Facebook page of events with free food.
In addition, GUSA is exploring the possibility for students to anonymously transfer meal swipes and researching the feasibility behind Residential Living’s sponsoring kitchenware for residential communities.
The Corp’s external board plans to determine the feasibility of allocating money to invest in food accessibility over breaks for students with high financial need. The Corp will also donate all unsold items to students in need over breaks, according to Kaye.
The Farmers Market has also promised to donate money to the initiative, which GUSA is considering using to buy a freezer to preserve food for students over break.
According to Kaye, the priority for this semester is increasing the available food options for students over breaks.
“Twenty percent of people who took the survey said that they lacked the ability to access food over this break, so we decided to make that a priority, and so right now I’m working with Chris [Fisk] to try and provide more food resources during break,” Kaye said.
Kaye said she is optimistic about the response to the survey results.
“I am astounded by how willing everyone has been to help,” Kaye said. “This really shows that food access isn’t just a one part of the community issue but it is really an entire community issue. It’s nice to see these groups recognize that and I’m hoping this can lead to some lonterm solutions.”
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