COVID-19 has exacerbated household food insecurity for the overall population with nearly one in four households experiencing food insecurity this year. Recent research indicates college students have been particularly hard hit with approximately 60 percent experiencing some form of basic needs insecurity.
The University of Hawaiʻi responded to the pandemic in March with the launch of the Urgent Student Relief Fund, which raised more than $1 million for students across all 10 campuses. Even before COVID-19 hit, basic student needs were a major concern, as evidenced by the creation of the UH System Basic Needs Committee (UHBNC), composed of representatives from every campus, to better understand and address food insecurity and other basic needs insecurities in the student population.
Based on studies in Hawaiʻi and the available national data, UHBNC anticipates high future rates of basic needs insecurity in the UH System, and was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation to develop systemic solutions. The Lumina Foundation also supported the effort with a $25,000 award.
UH comprehensive clearinghouse
The committee plans to hire a project coordinator to conduct a comprehensive survey of basic needs resources at each campus. This will help identify key gaps in food security and basic needs services to students and develop a comprehensive online clearinghouse (similar to California State University's), centralizing information on available services and directing students, faculty and staff to available resources.
UHBNC chair Albie Miles said, “Many students are struggling and it is critical that the university begin to address student basic needs insecurity in more systemic ways. The importance of student basic needs security cannot be overstated with multiple studies now showing food insecurity alone negatively impacts academic performance, mental health and graduation rates. This collaborative work is key to the success of our students and well-being of our community.”
The committee is also committed to developing a basic needs statement that contains a link to the clearinghouse of resources and would be highly recommended for inclusion in all course syllabi for classes taught throughout the UH System. This would broadly disseminate information about resources for basic student needs.
In the interim, the UHBNC developed an initial list of national and statewide resources to assist students.
- Surviving COVID-19: A #RealCollege Guide for Students
- Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi—Food Resources During COVID-19
- Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center—Food distribution sites on Oʻahu
- Findhelp.org—Find food assistance, get help paying bills, and other free or reduced cost programs
If you would like to make a gift to support UH student basic needs, visit UHFoundation.org/StudentAid.
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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. www.uhfoundation.org