Yvonne Montoya knows what it’s like to go hungry. When she first returned to college in October 2012 she was homeless, living off food pantry allotments and cheap snacks from the local CVS pharmacy. Although she qualified for food stamps, she often went hungry on campus because there was nowhere nearby to use them. Cerritos College, the mid-sized Los Angeles County school where she resumed her academic career, did not have any on-campus locations that accepted food stamps.
“I know what it’s like to be homeless and a college student,” said Montoya, who has three grown children and previously attended college sporadically while trying to raise them. “And to have a full-service cafeteria in front of me and not be able to access it because they’re not accepting food stamps.”
She wasn’t alone. As hunger in the United States has gotten worse across the board, food insecurity – defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as lack of ”access … to enough food for an active, healthy life” – has arrived on college campuses like never before. According to Feeding America, the country’s largest emergency food assistance network, roughly 10% of its 46.5 million adult clients attend school, including 2 million who are full-time students. Yet despite the prevalence of food insecurity among college students, few on-campus vendors accept food stamp benefits in lieu of other forms of payment.