retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that "food pantries, where students in need can stock up on groceries and basic supplies, started cropping up on campuses in large numbers after the recession began in 2007. More than 200 U.S. colleges, mostly public institutions, now operate pantries, and more are on the way, even as the economy rebounds.

"Among factors driving the trend: Tuition has soared 25% at four-year public institutions since 2007, according to the College Board, and costs such as housing, books and transportation have also risen significantly in recent years."

The Journal notes that "the stigma attached to receiving free food has diminished among students as so-called food security - a term used by the U.S. government to describe reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food - is regarded on campuses increasingly as a right ... About 14.5% of U.S. households experienced some form of food insecurity in 2013, according to the Department of Agriculture’s latest data."

The Journal writes that "the extent of the problem at colleges is unclear, but it is a growing concern among educators since it can affect academic performance and attendance. Janet Napolitano, president of the 10-campus University of California, which enrolls 188,300 undergraduates, recently launched an initiative that includes assessing student hunger."

Many of these campus pantries are being run in partnership with local food banks, supermarkets, restaurants and farms, the story says.
KC's View:
This strikes me as yet another example of how the higher education system in this country is completely broken. College costs so much that many of these kids can barely afford to live ... and they accumulate so much student debt that it cripples them - and the economy - once they get out of school. And I see very little evidence that anybody in the public or academic sector is doing anything about it.

I know a guy who told me recently that he got a letter from his kid's university saying that tuition is going up next year by several percentage points, and that in the second paragraph of the letter, the university said that it remains highly sensitive to financial pressures on parents and students. The word he used to characterize this so-called sensitivity cannot be repeated here ... but I totally agree with him.

At a very basic level, a kid who doesn't eat can't study and can't excel ... and therefore cannot achieve the kinds of things that we as a society need him or her to achieve if we are going to continue to be a relevant society. This is insanity.

By the way, my self-interest here has nothing to do with my kids. We've been lucky. If all goes well, by this time next year we'll be preparing for our third and final college graduation, and we've been able to help our kids avoid almost all college loan debt. It hasn't been easy, but in my view that's one of the most important gifts we can give them. But I also recognize that we've been extraordinarily lucky in this regard, and it isn't like the system has made it easy.