“Hungry to Learn” reveals harsh reality college students face

As statistics continue to describe an increase in food insecurity across college campuses, director, and producers, gathered four stories of college students who have faced firsthand the devastating effects of food insecurity and homelessness, not knowing where their next meal would come from. 

Presented in the SVU theater during Doc NYC, which is America’s largest documentary film festival, hundreds of people gathered to watch this shocking and heartbreaking film, unveiling an issue many people do not think about on a daily basis. 

“All the pieces came together and we could start exploring this issue that really was just a data point. How many students are hungry on campus?” said the editor, Flavia de Souza. 

“The issue really spoke to me, I have children myself, and this is our future, these young people standing there are the future of the country. So it feels really urgent,” agreed the director, Geeta Gandbhir. 

As the film followed each student around their college campus, it gave a glimpse into the hardships they faced and the resilience they had to overcome the odds. Emotion filled the crowd, as some points led to laughter while other points led to tears. A certain heaviness filled the theater when one student and her father were kicked out of their homeless shelter, and as another student was forced to live out of her car. 

“Hungry to Learn” presented a problem while putting a face to the statistics, as well as offered a solution and way to create change. At one point or another, each student found the courage they needed to speak up about their particular situation. They told a trusted family member or professor who poured all their efforts into helping them. 

One solution was to incorporate a food pantry on their college campuses. Food pantries allow for students who are facing feelings of loneliness and being ashamed of what they are going through to know they are not alone. 

Towards the end of the film, each student had overcome obstacles that were placed in their way, through continuing their education and becoming advocates for others facing the same circumstances. Two of the students for the film were special guests and joined activist and Professor, Sara Goldrick Rab on stage for a Q&A session. 

“The food insecurity rates of the general population are a lot lower than the rates we are recording here,” said Rab. “Some people use that to say well there must be something wrong with these data: how could college students be food insecure at higher rates than the general population? And the answer is really easy. They face higher prices. They face time poverty because they’re juggling school on top of work on top of family and they are systematically left out of many of the support programs.” 

“So it actually makes a lot of sense that they would be the ones to fall short and I think that's the decision that we have to reconsider.” 

“Hungry to Learn” is highly relevant to every college student, parent, friend and professor. If you or someone you know is going through this, please reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or educator on campus, and visit our food pantry on campus, located in ASB-130. 

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