Why Hunger Is Still A Problem In America
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While We're Complaining About Dining Hall Food, People Just Off Campus Are Starving

While men, women, and children beg for change and scraps of food just outside our walls, we indulge ourselves in multiple plates of food whose leftovers will eventually be thrown out rather than used.

Homeless man and a sign

Every day at 5:00 p.m., I leave my dorm on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University (New Brunswick) and begin my daily jog to Buccleuch Park, a semi-scenic forested area just off campus. As I leave behind the hectic environment and descend into the park it's both a release from reality and an opportunity to recollect my thoughts from the day.

Though this descent is one of the joys I find throughout my busy day, it also puts me face-to-face with one significant dilemma present in our city. Standing just beside the Route 18 off ramp holding out a hat and carrying a familiar sign stands a homeless man. With the same dirt covered bomber jacket, unshaven face, and sign which reads "Homeless Veteran, Anything Helps, God Bless" we've grown accustomed to seeing each other so frequently, and typically we exchange nods as I pass.

While I've never stopped to talk to the man, this same routine has left me feeling somewhat connected to him and his circumstance, and as I continue up the path I feel myself wondering about where he came from and what he's been through. It can be difficult to see and recognize such immense poverty on a direct level, but although this interaction is quite sad, it's important to remember that this situation isn't an anomaly at college campuses across the country, especially those located in major cities.

In the case of Rutgers, a 2017 "Point in Time" survey undertaken by Elijah's Promise and the state of New Jersey found that within the city of New Brunswick there are approximately 546 persons living in emergency shelters, transitional housing within the city, and 125 of which have no shelter at all. 46.2 percent of the total are diagnosed with some existing disability, mental illness being the most prevalent, and approximately 49 unaccompanied children float between these shelters and the streets.

The focus on food insecurity and homelessness has also been broadened from area's around college campuses to the students within them as well. A study by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that nationwide 36 percent of college students have self-described themselves as food insecure and 9 percent have described themselves as homeless.

Recently, Rutgers has made advances towards diminishing this inequality through establishing a student food pantry aimed to provide groceries to food insecure students and utilizing various Rutgers University Class of 2022 service projects to create food packages for the underprivileged children of New Brunswick. While these are significant steps, as a campus and major university we can do more. Most prominently, Dining Services output hundreds of pounds of food daily, a significant amount of which goes into the trash rather than on the plates of college students.

While men, women, and children beg for change and scraps of food just outside our walls, we indulge ourselves in multiple plates of food whose leftovers will eventually be thrown out rather than used. Though the logistics of giving away perishable food items can be difficult, logistics come second to providing for the less fortunate. Food security is taken for granted by those who never experienced hunger or poverty, but the need for basic human necessities is important to anyone. If we are truly able to achieve our goal and become an influential global university, we must first look to change the environment of our own backyard.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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