Daily Caller: The Great College Hunger Hoax

American Renewal, December 2, 2019

The College Hunger Hoax: Move Over Freshman 15, Progressives Now Claim College Students Go Hungry At Rates Way Higher Than Everyone Else

by James Bovard

“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.

Some colleges are hyping hungry students to spur donations for Giving Tuesday:

  • 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.”  Was this pitch inspired by the famous 1987 television fundraising ad with Sally Struthers on how 70 cents a day can feed a hungry Ethiopian child? The college neglected to buttress its appeal with photos of emaciated Kansas students.
  • The Giving Tuesday pitch for Manor College in suburban Philadelphia packs a double whammy, promising to help both hungry students and the campus Bird Feed program.
  • Portland Community College is seeking to raise $50,000 on Giving Tuesday 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.

Why would college students be 762% more “food insecure” than the average American? Does receiving a letter of acceptance from a college mysteriously obliterate a person’s ability to feed themselves, or what? The answer lies in part in ludicrously biased surveys. Last year, Hope Center researchers reported that 26% of students with a college meal plan were “food insecure.” But how did students oversleeping and missing breakfast become part of a national crisis? 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 miss meals and struggle financially but this has been the plight of some college students going back centuries. Many colleges would be compassionate to offer lower-price meal plans in lieu of the five-star buffets they increasingly serve. Many students are justifiably perturbed at soaring tuition costs for diplomas of shaky value. But they were not conscripted into higher education.

Perhaps the biggest danger from the College Hunger Hoax is that it will justify new political takeovers of another swath of American life. 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.” Should we presume that attending college classes inflicts the equivalent of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, making students unable to care for themselves?

Someone might reach that conclusion based on the righteous and rapturous responses of many college students to Bernie Sanders’ tweet. The sense of entitlement can be disabling or at least deter some students from taking a job to cover their cost of living. But no one has explained why becoming a gender studies major magically entitles a person to be fed by other Americans’ tax dollars.

James Bovard is the author of “Attention Deficit Democracy,” “The Bush Betrayal,” “Terrorism and Tyranny,” and other books. Bovard is on the USA Today Board of Contributors. He is on Twitter at @jimbovard. His website is at www.jimbovard.com


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5 Responses to Daily Caller: The Great College Hunger Hoax

  1. Tom Blanton December 2, 2019 at 9:55 pm #

    I feel for these hungry students. Prices for everything are so high these days that it isn’t hard to imagine a student confronted with the dilemma of having to choose between a 12-pack of decent beer and a healthy meal. With a $35 minimum for free delivery of quality vegan prepared meals from Whole Foods, the costs can mount when a student gets hungry. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a white male student trying to get laid on a campus where all the chicks are woke and scream rape when asked out for drinks. So, it is hard to afford gluten-free cauliflower pizza and get hookers to come to the frat house too. Parents are likely to ask questions if charges from outcall services appear on their credit card statements.

    • Jim December 2, 2019 at 10:02 pm #

      That’s a hoot! Life was simpler for Hokies in the 1970s. When I wrote about a survey by the same organization last year for USA Today, I received a tidal wave of angry Twitter retorts. One of my favs was a college student who insisted that peanut butter was not a viable option. Why? He explained that all the peanut butter brands were full of sugar. I pointed out that Whole Foods 365 brand had zero sugar, zero additives (except for a smidge of salt), and cost barely $2 a pound. But he sniffed at that — as if that was below his dignity. Hope that dude doesn’t plan to become an artist or writer.

      I would be curious to see a supplemental survey on how much food insecure students spend per month on cell phone plans, etc.

  2. MrLiberty December 7, 2019 at 8:09 pm #

    We are helping out a friend’s blind son at a college in the Atlanta area. The on-campus apartments, and all of the off-campus apartments that are connected to the school by their free bus service, all have granite countertops in the kitchens, in-apartment washers and dryers, single-person rooms (with their own bathroom – no sharing), enormous pools, enormous and well-equipped weight rooms (one apartment’s is 12,000 sq. feet), secure parking areas, grills, televisions, and outdoor seating areas near the pools, and so much more. If any of these kids are actually feeling “food insecurity” then I say “good.” Its the only thing in their lives that might actually wake them up to the harsh reality of the world outside their overly pampered living circumstances.

    • Jim December 7, 2019 at 8:56 pm #

      Thanks for the comment. Some colleges have become like Club Med, as some economists have pointed out. And the food they serve at some colleges is far superior to what most Americans eat. Ya, there will be some post-college jolts for some folks….

  3. TomKat Books January 1, 2020 at 4:31 am #

    Of course, college students aren’t starving. Someone just paid some PR company to devise and promote a bogus poll in an effort to procure some big bucks — either from government or big donors. Only a gullible lefty would believe such nonsense.