SPECIAL REPORT: Hungry on Campus

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - As tuition costs continue to rise across the country, finding decent meals is turning into a growing struggle for students.

Allyson Green is a junior at Midwestern State University who faces this problem. She is the president of the Black Student Union and holds a job at the Student Development Center on campus. She sees hungry students all the time.

Green said sometimes affording food is a team effort amongst students. When they cannot feed each other, they go without. She said, "We just don't eat for that day or two, or we do once every day and that's just kind of what it is."

Their budget for food gets smaller due to the costs of higher education. Green said, "Money for school and other things have to come first before actually eating sometimes."

According to The Texas Tribune, tuition averages $4,000 a semester statewide. Add fees, books, and housing into the equation, and going to college gets very expensive for some.

Skipping meals can affect a student's grades and their health. Working students cannot always make it to the dining hall.

Brandy Belk used to serve food at one of MSU's dining halls. She owns her own catering company and remained connected on campus. She has recognized the food insecurity that students face and feeds hungry students in her home. Belk said, "No student is ever going to say, 'oh I'm struggling' or 'I'm not hungry'. I don't think I can ever remember a time where a student has actually said that. But there are a lot of kids that come to my house and eat on the holidays. I'm sure a lot of them are struggling, but you know it's a pride thing."

Some campuses are finding ways to help students receive decent meals. One community college in Houston teamed up with its local food bank. 120 pounds of donated food is given to low income students each month through a new scholarship program. Those who qualify get the produce for free.

MSU's Dean and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Matthew Park says help is available for hungry students on their campus as well.

Park said, "It's difficult for students to express that vulnerability and to let other people into what they consider their personal life. So, I think though, that if we are able to continually evolve or unveil some of these support services available for students such that they can access them in a fairly simple non-intimidating manner, then I hope to see that those are taken advantage of."

Students can get an emergency loan from financial aid. Counseling services offer food vouchers.

MSU is planning to open a food pantry in the Clark Student Center this summer. They are still figuring out the time and days that pantry will be operate.

It will be open to all students. Park said," … if for example that there's a student that presents himself or herself in a difficult situation, there's plenty of staff members in this building who can simply go and open the door, monitor, and make sure that that student gets some help.

Green agrees that a food pantry will be helpful, "I think it would be a good thing. I mean we collect food for the food bank and all of that, we can collect food for this school"

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