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Growing Number Of Students Dealing With Hunger, Homelessness At State Schools

SALEM (CBS) -- According to a survey from 29 state college and university administrators submitted to the state Board of Higher Education, more than a thousand students at state colleges are dealing with food insecurity or homelessness.

Christine Sullivan runs the food pantry at Salem State University. She says some 200 students there need food assistance, and that the issue is definitely a growing one.

"I think initially, folks do find it surprising," Sullivan told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope. "But when you think about the expenses of school now compared to the past, the large number of students who are actually on their own and trying to figure out a way to improve their life and their circumstances ... and sometimes there are major life events that happen for a student or within a family where there is help needed."

Now, Sullivan said she's researching what resources are available to help students in these situations.

"Depending on their situation, students may be eligible for food stamps," Sullivan . She said she was working on "making sure they know that, and what the process is to get evaluated for that, looking to see what the different ways are that we can be supportive."

Sullivan said 12 students have come to the food pantry for help since the new semester began just a week and a half ago.

"If you're hungry, or if you're homeless or at risk for homelessness, it's kind of hard to focus on your studies, for sure," she said.

But the school community--including faculty and alumni--have been very supportive.

"As they have learned that their peers are struggling with food, students have wanted to help, so they've done different kinds of events on campus," Sullivan said. "Might be a volleyball game, and to participate, you have to contribute to the pantry in terms of an item."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope reports

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