Recent initiative on hunger insecurity

Lelia Durand, Staff Reporter

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” Households are food insecure if they experience diminished availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, which are necessary to support an active, healthy life for all household members. Food insecurity is linked to numerous situations, including poverty, job layoffs and living in food deserts, and can lead to serious health complications such as malnutrition and a weakened immune system. 

A survey conducted by the USDA found that Ohio had the 13th-highest average food insecurity rate between 2017 and 2019 at 12.6% of households, with roughly 43% of those households having very high food insecurity. 

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank found that in 2018, the food insecurity rate in Cuyahoga County was 18.6%, with African Americans and Latinos being the most affected population. 

This past week, the Case Western Reserve University Food Insecurity Working Group, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC) launched the CWRU Food Insecurity Survey. The CWRU Food Insecurity Working Group is a mix of faculty, professional students and undergraduate students featuring the nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger, the Physical Resource Center (PRC) and USG’s food-insecurity efforts. 

These three groups collaborated with faculty members from the Department of Nutrition, the Dean of Students and the General Counsel, as well as professional and undergraduate students who work with food insecurity issues to design the survey. It includes general questions on whether students’ access to food and how lack of transportation, financial constraints, quality of available food and cultural or dietary needs have impacted their access to healthy food within the past six months. In order for the survey to be truly representative of the CWRU population, there is no end-date listed.  

As the first university-wide food insecurity survey, its data will provide more information on food insecurity at CWRU. Third-year undergraduate student and chair of the PRC, Sharan Mehta says that the “collective goal” of the survey is to “make a difference on food insecurity at Case.” Mehta also hopes that the survey will indicate whether the introduction of a food pantry at the PRC is needed. 

Currently, undergraduate and graduate students can request $25 Grubhub gift cards on need-based availability, an initiative of Swipe Out Hunger. There are also several food pantries located on campus.