Editorial: Dartmouth must take steps to eliminate food insecurity among students

  • Andrew Sosanya, a junior physics and political science student, left, eats in the Class of ’53 Commons with his friend Aidan O'Day, a senior behavioral economics and philosophy student, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. The dining hall is all-you-can-eat after one meal swipe, so Sosanya tries to get as much as he can while there. The first-generation college student from New Jersey was also on campus during the term breaks when the dining options were closed, and he had to rely on free meal programs from the First-Year Enrichment Program and the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Joseph Ressler

Published: 6/1/2019 10:10:18 PM
Modified: 6/1/2019 10:10:16 PM

That students at any institution of higher education should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from is deeply troubling. That the situation exists at a fabulously wealthy college such as Dartmouth is nearly inconceivable and little short of scandalous.

As Amanda Zhou reported last week, so-called food insecurity is indeed an issue on the Hanover campus, where students coming from families of limited means often struggle to find a reliable source of nutritious food, both while school is in session and especially while staying on campus during term breaks.

While almost half of Dartmouth students receive financial aid to offset the college’s $74,000 sticker price, that aid doesn’t cover all expenses, and some students feel pressure to scrimp on their meal plans, which cost between $1,835 and $2,085 for a fixed number of meal swipes and dining dollars each term.

Several students interviewed by Zhou detailed their nutritional strategies, from visiting free-food special events on campus such as lectures to hoarding leftovers from the dining hall in a mini-fridge. One of them, junior Andrew Sosanya, said he plans to attend three free-food events a week, although there are stretches without any such events on campus.

Apparently those interviewed are not alone when it comes to sometimes being hungry. When the student assembly recently announced that it would give out 100 $25 vouchers for food-insecure students to use at the Hanover Co-op Food Store, they were snapped up within three hours. The vice president of the assembly told Zhou that the issue came up repeatedly while she was campaigning for office.

The situation is especially acute during term breaks when most dining halls are closed, Zhou reported. Students who don’t have the money to travel home stay in Hanover and try to scrape together enough food.

Separate initiatives have been undertaken to try to help. For example, a food shelf is now available to students who need access to staple food items, and a couple of free meals are provided daily during the college’s six-week-long winter break.

It seems to us, though, that a college with an endowment of $5.5 billion could make a systematic effort to ensure that all of its students are fed adequately.

Yes, we know administrators have, if you will, a lot on their plate: building a $17.5 million indoor sports practice facility; a $200 million expansion of the west end of campus; and a pending $200 million conversion of the college’s heating system to biomass power and hot water, to name just a few.

We also know that many of them are handsomely compensated. In 2017, 13 Dartmouth administrators and employees made in excess of $500,000, led by President Phil Hanlon, who reaped more than $1.4 million in total compensation, a 6% increase from the prior year. Members of the investment office, which manages the college’s endowment, saw compensation increases of between 10% and 16%.

Simply put, Dartmouth has the resources to make this sorry situation a thing of the past without the slightest financial exertion, and there’s no excuse we can think of for not promptly doing so. Lower-income students who attend elite educational institutions such as Dartmouth have more than enough hurdles to overcome without having to grub for food.

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