Ways to communicate about food insecurity to students and other staff

If you are faculty or a GE:

  • Add information about food resources to your syllabi.
    • Link to the Food Security and Basic Needs websites. 
    • This is also an opportunity to define food insecurity, so there is a common understanding, and to destigmatize the problem. 
    • These definitions and links can also be added to Canvas, as well as department or class newsletters, blogs, and social media.
  • Connect food insecurity to course content where possible.
  • Invite “class raps” from the Food Security Leaders program to speak to your class.
  • Make information available during office hours, by offering a digital flier or paper brochure from the Food Security Task Force.

If you supervise student workers:

  • Provide SNAP enrollment information to students who have work-study, and ask your HR team to incorporate this into the onboarding process.
    • Address general food security resources as part of onboarding procedures for all student employees, regardless of work-study status.
  • Share resources at staff meetings. 
  • If your relationship allows, suggest resources during one-on-one check-ins.
  • Allow students to have input in their schedules so they can access resources. 

If you advise or support students:

  • If your relationship allows, evaluate where they are with basic needs like housing and healthcare. Suggest resources if needed.
  • Advocate for linking to food security resources on department or other websites.
  • Add the food security resources link to your email signature.

If you have little interaction with students:

  • Share resources with colleagues who do interact with students.
    • Define food insecurity and include resource links at staff meetings and through your department’s Microsoft Teams channels.
  • Post information in prominent spaces where students or student workers can see. 

Tips for the food insecurity conversation itself

  • Be aware of power dynamics between you and the student. You do not want the information to seem like a directive or assignment.
    • Let students know about resources, but do not make it seem like you expect them to use the resources or report back.
  • Create common ground with definitions. Many students who are technically food insecure do not see themselves that way. 
    • Food insecurity can be skipping a meal, eating less at one meal to stretch it into two, reducing the amount of food to a point that it is no longer fulfilling, and avoiding social situations where others may be buying or sharing food.
  • Destigmatize without “OKing.” Food insecurity is a pervasive problem and it is not the student’s fault, but we are also not OK with hunger and we are working as an institution to end it. 
  • Avoid assigning blame or suggesting fault, e.g., “you need to manage money better,” or “you need a budget.” Even if it is true, it does not fix the immediate need and makes the student feel unworthy of help.
    • Remember that even if a student has a job, they are very likely taking out loans and going into debt. Many students reduce the amount of food they buy to avoid going deeper in debt. 
  • If your relationship allows, see where they are at with basic needs in addition to food, like housing, healthcare, etc.
  • Students VERY FREQUENTLY refuse resources because they think someone else needs them more. While that may be true, there are generally enough resources for everyone who needs them. For example, the student food pantry has more than enough food.
  • Ask students for their help in sharing this information with their friends and peers. Although some students may not be food insecure, their friends and classmates might be. Spreading knowledge of resources through a peer-to-peer network may be most effective for reaching less-engaged students.