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Food insecurity looms during Spring break

Drew Dunderman, a third-year in chemical engineering and president of the Buckeye Food Alliance, sets up the organization’s food pantry in Lincoln Tower Mar. 3. Credit: Deborah Eshun | Lantern Reporter

Spring break is the light at the end of the tunnel of midterm season for most students who use the time for well-deserved rest and relaxation. For some, however, the break can cause a host of other issues as usual services provided by the university slow or shut down entirely.

Fifteen percent of Ohio Students in 2014 were categorized as having “low levels of food security,” a term that describes someone’s ability to consistently keep themselves fed with healthy food, according to the Buckeye Food Alliance.

The Buckeye Food Alliance is a student-run nonprofit with the mission of eliminating food insecurity among Ohio State students. It partners with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and other organizations to achieve this goal.

Drew Dunderman, a third-year in chemical engineering and president of the Buckeye Food Alliance on campus, said those most affected often do not know where their next meal will come from.  

Dunderman said the pantry is busiest before and after breaks, “Just so people can get caught up.”

During regular hours, the organization provided food and personal hygiene products to more than 400 students who made over 1,000 visits to the pantry in 2018. However while they can help before and after break, the pantries are closed during spring break.

Breaks in meal plans and housing accommodations can exacerbate food concerns or put previously unaffected students in jeopardy.

Tessa Jensen-Hedgecock, a second-year in English literature, said she is staying on-campus over break to make extra money at her job as an office assistant. Jensen-Hedgecock is a dual citizen of the United States and England, which makes traveling during short time frames difficult and costly.

“Home for me is England so it is obviously too expensive for me to go home for a week.” Jensen-Hedgecock said.

As a result of her South Campus dorm closing for break, Jensen-Hedgecock stays with a friend in order to remain on campus and avoid the cost of staying in alternate housing.

During regular weeks, Jensen-Hedgecock uses her Scarlet 14 meal plan to eat on campus, but the closing of the majority of on-campus food facilities during break has put a strain on her finances.

“There is nothing open so I am just going off campus to eat which is getting pretty expensive.  In the past two days I probably spent $25 on the past two or three meals,” Jensen-Hedgecock said. “My job is minimum wage so that’s kind of a lot of hours of work to go to food when I’m already spending quite a lot on a meal plan.”

A meal plan is required of students who live on campus. The Scarlet 14 costs $2,360 per semester, according to Ohio State Dining Services’ website.

Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said there are still dining facilities open during the week of spring break for students to use.

Students who stayed had access to two cafes — Juice 2 and Espress-OH — during the weekend leading up to the break.  

A total of five cafes, including the aforementioned pair, Berry Cafe, Caffeine Element and Terra Byte Cafe, are open during the week of break with limited hours and healthy options.

From her job as an office assistant in a dorm, Jensen-Hedgecock said she has seen firsthand that she is not the only student staying on campus and facing the same problem.

In the future, Jensen-Hedgecock said she hopes to see more dining options for those staying over spring break.

“I understand why not everything can be open for the regular hours, but I think that they should definitely have some limited hours for at least Kennedy Commons or for North [campus] Scott,” Jensen-Hedgecock said. “Even if it’s just for lunch time or just for dinner, so you can go in and get a to-go box.”

Jensen-Hedgecock said this is a difficult situation for everyone involved, but notes the specific needs of international students who cannot travel over such short periods of time.

“It sucks for everybody involved,” she said. “Especially for international students where there is no way they could go home for spring break and have to cook their own food or buy food which is expensive when you already pay for a meal plan.”

5 comments

  1. Although “food insecurity” is a a somewhat fabricated problem, are we being told that after all these years the university has no plan in place to accommodate students during breaks? Too bad they don’t play football.

    Conversely, the students, especially foreign students, need to take responsibility for themselves. It’s not like they didn’t know there are breaks between semesters.

  2. This… this just has to be a joke, right? So Tessa spent $25 on two or three meals?? And it’s the university’s fault??? Go to a GROCERY store! There is no where on campus where you can’t walk to one.
    You can easily make a healthy meal for $2 or $3 yourself. Too much work? Jesus, McDonalds costs 4 bucks to fill up, that’s $8-12 instead of $25. If you are spending $25 on 2 or 3 meals, while making minimum wage, YOU ARE BAD WITH MONEY. You are making BAD choices. That is YOUR fault, not anyone else’s. But everyone else needs to FIX it for you?? This is ridiculous.

    And of course, the critical point is buried 2/3 of the way through the article:

    “There are still dining facilities open during the week of spring break for students to use.”

    So NOT ONLY are you ridiculously bad with money – you’re TOO LAZY to walk to the open OSU facilities???

    Christ, I wish I could write more but I self-lobotomized in order to finish reading this. Deborah? Your reporting is fine. OSU students? I weep for you.

    • Hi, it’s Tessa! I was going to justify my actions to you, but realised that I didn’t have to.

      So, just for reference I’m not bad with money, and not lazy. You don’t need to weep for me, I’m doing just fine and have been on the Dean’s List every semester 🙂

      In future, maybe don’t judge others when you don’t know the full situation.

  3. How about this for absurdity. She is English and came to the Midwest to study English Lit?

    • Hi, Tessa here. It’s probably not the best idea to judge other people’s life choices when you know nothing about them or their circumstances 🙂

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