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Why some college students have to choose between buying textbooks or going hungry
The starving student is becoming a reality, well beyond the stereotypical college student living off ramen noodles. - photo by Megan McNulty
The starving student is becoming a reality, well beyond the stereotypical college student living off ramen noodles.

According to a new report by NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education, there has been a rise in the number of student requests to stock food pantries and hand out vouchers for supplies at campus bookstores. Forty-seven percent of students requested campus vouchers and 45 percent requested food pantries.

For the report, NASPA analyzed 523 universities and surveyed financial-aid directors. Seventy-five percent of participants said their schools incorporated emergency-aid programs to reduce the dropout rate. Most said they were overwhelmed by the requests for these financial aid programs and needed better resources.

Amelia Parnell, an author of the report, told The Atlantic that as the cost of higher education is rising, students are becoming less financially stable and specific types of aid such as food pantries have increased. I dont think we had that type of situation 10 years ago, she said.

Jane Jakubczak, a university coordinator of nutrition services, told The New York Times "students experience a lot of stress and anxiety over where their next meal is coming from."

According to the San Jose Mercury News, a new University of California survey has found that nearly 1 in 5 of its students had gone hungry in the past year. Additionally, 23 percent were reported to be food-insecure.

In response to the rising number of food-insecure students, more than 300 colleges nationwide have created food pantries, according to The Times. Some schools are stocked through cash donations and others acquire grocery-store food that is close to an expiration date.

NPR's Planet Money team found students at Norwalk Community College are often faced with the decision to buy food or textbooks, so the school set up a pantry to help. But it found some students were embarrassed to take advantage of the free food.

"In order to encourage students to get over guilt and shame, there are almost no requirements to use the pantry. You just have to be a student. The school does marketing campaigns, fliers, emails, educational lectures," NPR reported. "When the pantry started, four or five students came in a day. Now it's 15 or 20."

With the average cost of textbooks being around $500 to $1,000 each semester, many students argue this extra cost added on to already expensive tuition rates makes it difficult to live and attend school, according to the Daily Dot. It is also difficult for college students to work full-time and balance a school schedule.

To avoid becoming strapped for food or cash, prospective students and their parents should consider the cost of food and other basic living expenses when exploring their options on where and when to go to college, according to an article in the Deseret News.

"Many schools have net price calculators that go beyond tuition, room and board to include transportation, textbook costs and other expenses," the article stated.

To handle those extra expenses, students should establish a budget "to manage costs, covering everything from the expense of fixing a broken laptop to the cost of furnishing a dorm."