You can’t always see poverty with the naked eye. And at times, it seems to have a decided preference for anonymity.
The signs of food insecurity are not always apparent, either. Sometimes, they hide in plain sight, dressed as an everyday community college student shuffling off to his or her next class. On other occasions, the cumulative effects of living so perilously close to the edge reveal themselves in a worn out pair of shoes or a broken pair of eyeglasses that have been taped back together.
A scarcity of food at home is also not something students often choose to discuss publicly. Neither is inadequate housing. Going deep on either topic can be awkward and embarrassing.
But several students on the Midlothian campus of John Tyler Community College were willing to offer their thoughts.
Nineteen-year old Karen Mosby of suburban Midlothian, VA, says there’s always plenty of food at grandma’s house, where she currently resides with her younger brother and mother. But she concedes grandma has a lot on her plate trying to provide for four people while simultaneously keeping a roof over their heads.
“She’s working two jobs right now and she’s a single-parent. It’s a financial strain.”
Twenty-one year old Clayton Klich says those suffering from food insecurity and inadequate housing are likely to keep to themselves.
“Because the world, as a whole, kind of looks down on poor people. We don’t take care of them anymore.”
Emily Nick, who’s 18, says she doesn’t know anyone at the Midlothian Campus of JTCC who might be experiencing food insecurity or inadequate housing. But she admits some of her contemporaries at the Chester campus of JTCC and Reynolds Community College are struggling.
“If I weren’t lucky enough to have supportive parents, I likely would be having issues with food insecurity and housing, too.”
According to a Wisconsin Hope Lab survey, 42 percent of community college students experience food insecurity while 12 percent are homeless.
At least 15 of Virginia’s 23 community colleges operate student food pantries. Some even make grocery deliveries to families in need during exams.
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