Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Some UA students go without food

Every week, some UA students have to make a value judgement. Should they pay for heat, rent or food? For at least a few, food loses out. “I would say that we probably come in contact with, over the course of a week, two or three students who may come to our office who have an issue that may lead to hunger,” Lowell Davis, the assistant dean of students, said. “For example, we may have a student who has trouble paying their rent or not being able to pay for a book, and these often uncover numerous issues.”

Davis said when students come into the Office of the Dean of Students, faculty members sometimes use their own personal funds to help students buy groceries.

“We don’t have a formal structure in place to support these students, but I think people on campus just have a heart, and so when they see a student who has a need, they’re willing to help them,” Davis said. “My personal wish would be that the Division of Student Affairs would have money that they can allocate to help our students in need, instead of hunting around for money.”

Lisa Bochey, the director of hunger and homelessness at the Community Service Center, said oftentimes, students may have housing and school paid for, but don’t have money for food.

“Many students who receive federal aid or grants to attend the University often struggle with paying for things that they do not have substantial funding for, such as money for food and groceries,” Bochey said. “It is tough to say exactly how many students deal with this problem, as these students often do not openly speak about it. Many people do not realize that it is not only individuals who are homeless that struggle with this issue.”

Davis said the Office of the Dean of Students tries to talk to the Office of Student Financial Aid to see if a student qualifies for a scholarship that can cover the cost, but sometimes, a student may already have aid.

“We kind of assess the situation,” Davis said. “We will contact Financial Aid to see if there is any additional need that they can receive, or if they’re maxed out, then we try to find scholarships for the students.”

Even when the Office of the Dean of Students finds scholarship money for a student, Davis said the money doesn’t always show up quickly enough.

“Oftentimes, scholarship money does not help these students immediately. That’s the challenge. It goes on their account, and it takes a few days, and meanwhile, they’re hungry or their heat is turned off,” Davis said. “If we’ve exhausted these channels, we will give a student gift cards to buy groceries or gas or car repairs – a number of different things.”

Elliott Bell, a Student Government Association senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, has worked on the Student to Student Meal Donation program with BamaDining on campus. The program allows students to donate a meal plan meal to students in need.

“This is a program that has not received a lot of attention over the years, and this is reflected in the amount of meals that are donated,” Bell said. “Often, we have seen that the number of meals requested has been greater than the amount of meals donated in a semester.”

Bochey said the program is helpful in addressing student hunger, but students should be able to donate more than one meal per semester.

“As many students do not use all of their meals each semester, this is a great program that allows those unused meals to go to good use,” Bochey said. “The only issue with this program is that students are only allowed to donate one meal per semester, no matter how many leftover meals a student has. If the limit were higher, it would allow for many more meals to be donated each semester.”

Bell said University administration is doing a good job addressing the needs of individual students, but that the student community should come together in support of their hungry peers.

“I don’t think that the University administration is the only entity that should work to address this problem,” Bell said. “We have a responsibility, as students within this community, to help one another, to care for one another, and we should each donate a meal. I think that there are a few avenues that could be explored to be far more proactive about the situation.”

Davis also said he would like to see more student groups getting involved and trying to help their peers on campus.

“I am sure that if I put a proposal together to our new president that she would definitely be willing to come up with some kind of ways to address the issues,” Davis said. “Dr. Bonner has personally supported students with these issues. However, I think these kind of programs are especially important for students to take charge of.”

Bell said he hopes the student body works to help and empower hungry students on campus.

“We need to make sure that those students in need feel empowered as individuals and should not accept hunger as a fact of life here at the University,” Bell said. “This is not merely a community issue; this is a moral issue.”

Students who would like more information about the Student to Student Meal Donation program can visit the BamaDining website.

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