The image of college students subsisting on ramen noodles and other convenience foods is common, maybe even a punchline.
But this seemingly accepted fact of college life underscores the larger issue of food security challenges faced by people across society. And it traces back to a common issue that anyone dealing with food insecurity faces — when finances are tight, you have to make hard choices. Sometimes those choices mean you make decisions about what you eat that aren’t ideal.
“It’s almost a stereotype that college students are going to be food insecure,” said Thomas Rosenberger, an Ohio State senior in Fisher College of Business. “But it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.”
Rosenberger and classmate Alec Admonius, a senior in Arts and Sciences, have taken steps to do something about it. Earlier in April they opened the Buckeye Food Alliance, a food pantry in Lincoln Tower that provides food for students in need.
Admonius and Rosenberger were two of the students who shared their work on food security with attendees of Ohio State’s inaugural Buckeye Summit. The summit welcomed more than 600 Ohio State researchers, students, alumni and friends to campus for a daylong discussion of how Buckeye Nation can mobilize to provide food security for all.
“Today was really great,” Admonius said.
“I think it provided a great perspective on the entire issue facing society. We have a narrower focus (with Buckeye Food Alliance), but this provided a really broad look at all of the factors that contribute to someone being food insecure.”
The Buckeye Food Alliance received strong support from the university. Rosenberger said Vice President for Student Life Dr. Javaune Gaston-Adams and her team provided a major boost in helping the students develop their food pantry idea.
This is just another example of the many ways Ohio State has committed to ensuring food security for all. At the Buckeye Summit, Interim Provost Bruce McPheron noted that the institution will invest $125 million in food security-related efforts over the next five years.
Courtney George, a junior majoring in human nutrition, provided another part of the summit presentation. She led the audience through an exercise that showed how many Ohioans and Americans are food insecure.
Food security was an interest area for George when she arrived at Ohio State, and she’s noticed the institution’s burgeoning commitment in the area. She’s most proud of the improved food options students are offered through the university’s dining services.
“Student Life conducted surveys and then acted by providing more healthful and nutritious options,” she said. “I’m proud of Ohio State for taking this issue head-on.”
Another student participant at the summit was Meera Nagarajan, a senior in human nutrition. Nagarajan got interested in food security in part after hearing assistant professor of social work Michelle Kaiser deliver a presentation on the topic during her freshman year.
Kaiser’s spark of inspiration was significant for Nagarajan, who began to focus her academic efforts in the area. Last month, Nagarajan won first place at the Denman Forum for her research on food security in neighborhoods close to campus.
“To be honest, the (food security) resources at Ohio State shaped my professional goals, and I realized I wanted to pursue this long-term in my career,” she said.
“Seeing the resources available has really helped me develop my ideas of what I want to do as a professional to help solve this problem. I can have a career addressing this issue, and I learned that when I came to Ohio State.”