Saturday, November 25, 2017

College Students and Charity

Almost 7 years ago I wrote about a food pantry for poor students at a local University of California campus.  That post generated 27 comments, a few in favor and several questioning why students in economic straits would choose to attend a University of California campus.  Before reading on, perhaps you'd go read that post, and even the comments, to get a fuller view of what I'm writing here.

Welcome back :-)  As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This past Thursday, the conglomeration of San Francisco newspapers published a story about UC Berkeley students' going on welfare and to food pantries:
More than 500 UC Berkeley students have applied for food stamps since January, up from 111 in all of 2016, and just 41 the year before, said Michael Altfest, spokesman for the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which helps students fill out the forms. Last year, food bank representatives showed up once a month to help the students. Now they have to come every week to meet the need.
Not all applicants qualify. This year, the acceptance rate is 73 percent, up from 62 percent in 2015, Altfest said.

Three years ago, state lawmakers passed AB1930 to make it easier for students to prove eligibility for food stamps. But it’s taken a few years for the ripple effect to hit.

A University of California survey of 9,000 students across all 10 campuses shed light on the need in 2015: Nearly 1 in 5 students, 19 percent, said they had too little to eat “due to limited resources.” Another 23 percent routinely ate substandard food with little variation.

Suddenly, the phrase “food insecurity” — from poor nutrition to outright hunger — became a campus buzz word, and not just on UC campuses.

Aware that some low-income students are stuck on campus during school vacations, Stanford University will keep a dining hall open during spring break for the first time next semester. California State University is working to get each of its 23 campuses equipped with the technology to accept food stamps, which have been provided electronically using debit cards since 2004.

Community college students are especially challenged by soaring housing prices — the two-year schools typically offer no student housing — so on Nov. 9, City College of San Francisco trustees voted unanimously to begin developing a program to help students who are chronically homeless and hungry.

At UC, President Janet Napolitano announced in 2016 that she would spend $302,000 over two years at each of the 10 campuses to expand food pantries and register more students for food stamps through CalFresh.
Going hungry isn't a choice.  However, attending a UC or even Stanford is.  We have great, relatively inexpensive community colleges here in California....

While I consider it untoward for some of the most privileged people on the planet--students who attend UC schools, who do so partly on my dime--to cry poverty and go to food pantries, if the food pantries are charitable, I have no actual complaint.  I might question or ridicule, but I won't complain or fight.  When I have to pay for it, however...wait, isn't that what I'm doing with food stamps?  So I'm paying for their "elite" education as well as their food?    Are these people even adults?

If she wanted to ensure that UC students can afford to eat, perhaps Napolitano should find ways to cut the cost of a UC education rather than turning students into beggars.

I have many quotes on the wall of my classroom.  One of them says "A sense of entitlement and one of gratitude cannot occupy the same space."  I think it applies in this situation.


Anna A said...

And what about the low level employees of the University? Are they able to make it on what they are being paid or do they need help as well.

I am personally more inclined to help the workers.

lgm said...

I'd like to see the food service costs go down. This can be done by employing student workers rather than adults with generous pensions and health care. Those students who can't afford food service can be given food service in return for working.

Skip said...

@lgm, that's how my college did it. We had employees handling food, but the scut work of swiping IDs, scraping the dishes, and loading the Hobarts was done by students, and it was a coveted job.

Speaking of college food, we didn't have fancy chef-driven kitchens like they've got now. No, we had a single central kitchen in the middle of campus, and the food was loaded in giant stainless steel trays and driven across campus (another coveted student job) to the satellite eating areas.

If you tried that today, the kids would revolt.