Yesenia JonesCorrespondent

On Friday, Oct. 27, students and staff gathered in Talley Ballroom to discuss the complex issues of food insecurity and homelessness over upcycled appetizers catered by RAVE. Some of the appetizers included apple and carrot latkes made from reclaimed apples from the farmers market and carrot peels from on campus kitchens.

The event, originally to be held in Currituck Ballroom, had to change locations to a larger ballroom to accommodate the number of attendees. The event was originally planned for 50 participants, but saw over 90 attendees, according to Sarah Wright, TRIO programs academic coach and co-chair of the Student Food and Housing Security Steering Committee.

Mediated by Mike Giancola, assistant vice provost and student ombudsperson, the event featured guests from local organizations and anecdotes from alumni about their experiences with these issues.

The community conversation opened with a statistic that displayed the severity of the issue, stating that 20 percent of college students across the nation are food insecure and seven percent have experienced homelessness.

During this conversation, Kalysha Clark, a current graduate student, described her experience with food insecurity as an undergraduate at NC State.

Clark was a first-generation college student and came from a lower income family. She had to work three jobs throughout her undergraduate experience to maintain financial stability.

Clark said that without the help of on-campus organizations like TRIO and federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), she is not sure how she would have made it through college.

“TRIO really provided me with resources that I needed to be successful, but also a team of professionals who were always supporting me and always had my back. They were always my cheerleaders,” Clark said. “Through TRIO, I was able to apply for food stamps or SNAP, EBT benefits.”

In order to lessen the severity of these issues on campus and prevent other students from having to go through the hardships that Clark went through, faculty and staff have done continuous research and created multiple initiatives.

Dr. Mary Haskett, a psychology professor, along with other faculty, created the Food and Housing Security Among NC State Students Initiative. Their vision is that “all NC State students will have access to sufficient, nutritious, culturally appropriate and affordable food and safe affordable housing accessible to the university.”

Culturally appropriate food addresses dietary needs for students who practice religions that require specific diets, such as Muslim students who eat Halal and Jewish students who eat Kosher.

The initiative recently released an online food and housing security survey that was sent to a representative sample of the student body to determine the exact number of students who struggle with the issues discussed at this community conversation. The results of the survey will be released during the spring semester.

Haskett said she decided to get involved and make a change after interacting with a young boy who shared his winter coat with other members of his family.

As a result of this interaction, she decided to place a coat rack outside of her office. She filled the coat rack with approximately 50 coats. They were gone within days.

She used her speech to say that we as students can do small things that will impact the greater community and help students who are experiencing food insecurity and homelessness.

“I think that if each of us did one small step, it would make a huge impact,” Haskett said.

At the end of the conversation, participants were asked to pair up with an accountability partner and make a pledge to create change in the NC State community.

The pledge template went as follows: “From today, I will ____.” Partakers in the pledge filled the blank with things such as volunteering at the food pantry and creating awareness of food insecurity on campus.

If you are a student who is currently struggling with food and or housing insecurity, resources are available. There are financial, educational, housing, and food resources that can be found on campus. The presentation can be found here.


Editor’s Note: The print version of the article incorrectly stated that this event was sponsored by TRIO. The event was initiated by many campus entities, including members of the Student Food and Housing Security Steering Committee, Sarah Wright, Mary Haskett, Carolyn Bird, Lindsey Batchetlor, Shawn Hoch, Shivani Surati and Indira Gutierrez with the support of College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden and Vice Chancellor Mike Mullen.