Connor Keller, a senior majoring in political science, noticed his peers struggling with food insecurity.
“I started to research the problem and found that it’s very prevalent,” Keller said. “Across the country, around 30-40 percent of students skip a meal once a week.”
Those who are food insecure do not have reliable access to healthy, affordable food. According to Keller, it can lead to lower GPAs, deferred graduations and various health problems. In response to this growing issue, Keller surveyed University of Utah students to identify the impact of food insecurity on campus.
“The survey was very targeted, with a focus on first-generation and migrant students,” he said. “Throughout our research, it was clear that no matter where it was in the country, there was always a huge discrepancy between how many first-generation students are food insecure versus the rest of the student population.”
Keller’s survey confirmed this suspicion, finding that at the U, first-generation students were 13 percent more likely to be food insecure than non-first-generation students. With this information, Keller hopes to implement three solutions: expand the National Student Lunch program to universities nationwide, and incentivize the U to adopt the Campus Kitchen Project and Swipe Out Hunger.
The National Student Lunch program currently serves K-12 students by offering free lunch to children under the poverty line, but Keller thinks that students at universities receiving Pell Grants should also participate.
“At our school alone, such an expansion could immediately feed 6,974 students that are more likely to face food insecurity,” he said. “It would be comparatively cheaper to implement at universities because cafeterias and staff are already at hand. The worth of Pell Grants has decreased substantially since the rise of college costs.”
Find this article and a lot more in the 2019 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.