In the Daily Trojan cover story from April 2, “Getting in — then getting fed,” you examined the critical and under-addressed problem of student food insecurity and hunger. I appreciate your coverage of this topic. However, there were a few key points the article missed.
I supervise the Late Night Hot Meal program you mention (we call it Late Night Café) at the United University Church. It was created by students because there was no food pantry at USC. As the food pantry becomes incrementally better, there are still rules that limit access to the food pantry. It was created precisely to spread awareness about student hunger and food insecurity and to be a resource for the students affected.
In the article, there was no mention of how food insecurity impacts graduate or international students. At Late Night Café, most of the students we serve each week are international students, and close to half of those who come are graduate students. There is less financial support for graduate students than for undergraduate students, and there are fewer financial resources like federal loans and grants available to international students than U.S. citizens. The only aid they can receive are merit-based scholarships, but only a small percentage of those students receive those scholarships. The rest of these graduate students are on their own. With regard to international students, there is a perception that the international students at USC come from very wealthy families. That is not the case with every single international student.
The fact that USC has not addressed food insecurity for all this time is very disappointing. The fact that the Undergraduate Student Government is putting more money into the food pantry than USC itself is upsetting. Although overlooking food insecurity is an epidemic on many campuses across the United States, as one of the wealthiest universities in the country, USC must take the lead in ensuring that no one on campus goes hungry. If the University can find money to fund high-level projects like renovating athletic facilities, then it can surely help eliminate hunger on campus. The article mentions our program as a resource. Although we do our best to serve the USC community in raising awareness for this issue, we simply do not have the budget to do more. USC must take care of all of its students, especially with regard to the basic need for food.
This is not to take away from what the writers identified in the article — hunger is hunger; financial hardship is financial hardship. However, we would appreciate it if the Daily Trojan explored this issue further. Broadening the scope of inquiry reveals food insecurity and the related economic stress impacts a wide variety of students across degree programs and demographics.
Pastor for Campus Engagement
United University Church
Class of 2021