“Nearly half our college students are going hungry,” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proclaimed on Saturday. Sanders’ tweet went viral, spurring more than 20,000 retweets and likes. “Starving college students are a new rallying cry for social justice warriors, spurring demands for new federal handouts and maybe even a college student meal program modeled after school lunches,” The Daily Caller reports.
Johnson County Community College in Kansas publicized a “Giving Tuesday” logo announcing: “$7 feed a hungry college student for one day. $49 feed one for one week.” The Daily Caller likened this pitch to the famous 1987 television fundraising ad with Sally Struthers on how 70 cents a day can feed a hungry Ethiopian child.
The Giving Tuesday pitch for Manor College in suburban Philadelphia promises to help both hungry students and the campus Bird Feed program.
Portland Community College wants to raise $50,000 for its food pantries, asserting that “two of three Portland Community College students have faced food insecurity.”
In reality, the College Hunger Hoax is largely the result of a bait-and-switch by social scientists. Rather than seeking to measure actual hunger, questionnaires ask about the vaporous topic of “food security.” Surveys rely on sentiments and opinions, not actual food consumption. If someone fears missing a single meal, they can be categorized as “food insecure,” regardless of how much they ate. And if someone desired to consume better quality or more expensive cuisine (attention Whole Foods shoppers), they can join the ranks of the “food insecure.”
Food security surveys are routinely contorted in media reports as gauges of college students’ hunger, if not starvation. Typical misreporting shined in a New York Times headline this past May: “Tuition or Dinner? Nearly Half of College Students Surveyed in a New Report Are Going Hungry.”
But even with the skewed definition of the problem, the numbers of suffering students defy common sense. Based on a thorough Census Bureau national survey, the Agriculture Department reported last September that 5.9% of American households were “food insecure” within the past 30 days. The most widely quoted annual report on the plight of college students comes from the zealots at the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. According to their most recent report this past April, 45% of college students were food insecure in the prior 30 days.
The Daily Caller argues, why would college students be 762% more “food insecure” than the average American? Does College admission mysteriously obliterate a person’s ability to feed themselves, or what? The answer lies in part in biased surveys. “Last year, Hope Center researchers reported that 26% of students with a college meal plan were “food insecure.” Other surveys have estimated that the rate of “food insecurity” among college students is as low as 9%.”
The Hope Center report gravely notes that 40% of students “cut the size of meals” due to cash shortages. This is portrayed as an unmitigated evil, though obesity is a far greater problem for college students than hunger. The percentage of students who were overweight or obese rose from 23% to 41% during their four years in college, according to a 2017 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior report. A study published in July in Health Education Journal reported that American “undergraduate students gain more weight in the first year in college than at any other point in their lives.” A 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that the average student gained ten pounds during their four years in college.
There are plenty of individual students who skip meals but this has always been the plight of some college students. Many colleges would be compassionate to offer lower-price meal plans in lieu of the five-star buffets they increasingly serve.
Some advocates are calling for “the federal government to provide free or reduced-cost meals at colleges, as is already done in primary and secondary schools.”