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Food insecurity at Stanford

Fall

It is Thanksgiving break. You watch your dormmates leave for home, trailing their suitcases behind them, and wish them safe travels. You, along with some of your friends, are remaining on campus for break. It should be fun — late night movies in the lounge, bike rides in a mostly-empty campus, pumpkin pie baking in the kitchenette. There is only one dining hall open on campus, but at least you know you’ll have food over the break. Things are okay.

***

Winter

It is almost the end of fall quarter, and you receive an email from R&DE Student Housing: “Undergraduate residences close on Saturday, December 17 at 12:00 p.m. and will reopen on Saturday, January 7 at 8:00 a.m.”

Three weeks. Residences and dining halls are closed for three weeks and “any student found inside the residences between 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 17 and 8:00 a.m. on January 7 will be escorted out and charged an unauthorized occupancy fee of $175 per day.”

You have to leave. But you can’t.

You have your reasons — maybe you can’t afford the ticket, or maybe you don’t have a place to go back to.

It’s interesting, how people say they’re going “back home” for break. You stop and wonder if they would understand if you told them that home is right here, if they would look at you differently. That you consider “home” a place where you have your own bed and you are guaranteed food.

You pack up your belongings and abide by the deadline — what choice do you have? You can’t afford the occupancy fee.

Maybe you can stay with friends in the area. Couch, after couch, after couch — you can stay with generous friend after generous friend.

Maybe you can scrape up savings to go home and borrow money to make up the difference.

You take a breath. Maybe it will all work out fine. Or maybe it won’t.

Either way, you will find out soon enough.

***

Spring

Things should be better this time around. You have a place to stay — residences are open. You and your friends have the campus to yourself, and it’s gloriously sunny outside.

But there is something you don’t understand.

The dining halls are closed. All of them. There isn’t even one open, like there was during Thanksgiving break. Maybe it’s because there might not be as many students on campus? But even if that’s the case, why are the athletic facilities still up and running?

You signed up to receive financial support from the DGen Office to tide you over during the break, and you hope that it will last.

***

Over spring break, those who chose (or who had no other choice) to remain on campus went without dining halls for a week. While this might not sound so bad (after all, most of us would jump at the opportunity to take a break from the monotony of dining hall food), eating out three meals a day, every day, for a week adds up — whether you are low-income or not.

Now consider the population of students most likely to remain on campus: those who cannot afford to go back home. Because finances bar those students from returning home, many low-income students struggle to afford the high cost of eating out for every meal and thus face food insecurity over break. They have to skip meals over the week, budgeting carefully to make sure that their limited supply of money carries them through.

The DGen office, in partnership with R&DE and various organizations on campus, stepped up and offered $150 in Cardinal Dollars to eligible students remaining on campus. The Cardinal Dollars, redeemable at Starbucks, Subway, Panda Express, Alumni Cafe, Forbes Family Cafe and TAP, were taken in large part from the Opportunity Fund, a fund reserved for first-generation and/or low-income students to use when an emergency arises.

Shouldn’t there be a way to ensure food security on campus without depleting a much-needed resource like the Opportunity Fund?

We need residences and at least one dining hall to remain open during all school breaks. To do otherwise is telling first-generation and/or low-income students that although Stanford’s brochures may claim to value diversity of all kinds, it’s just for show. The fact that the dining halls are closed while the athletic facilities remain open brings this sad truth to light. Does Stanford prioritize its athletes more? Is it that blinded by its brand that it cannot see that we need support, too?
Contact Amanda Rizkalla at amariz ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Amanda Rizkalla

Amanda Rizkalla

Amanda Rizkalla is a sophomore from East Los Angeles studying English and Chemistry. In addition to writing for the Daily, she is involved with the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program and is a Diversity Outreach Associate in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She loves to cook, bake, read, write and bike around campus.