How Staff and Faculty Can Help

Ways to communicate about food insecurity to students and other staff

If you are faculty or a graduate employee:

  • Add information about food resources to your syllabi. Refer to the Basic Needs website for an example.
    • This information can also be added to Canvas, as well as department or class newsletters, blogs, and social media.
  • Invite “class raps” from the Basic Needs Program to speak to your class, or share our program overview slide with your students on the first day.
  • Make information available during office hours, by offering a digital flier or paper brochure from the Basic Needs Program.

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 basic needs resources at staff meetings, including how to connect with the Basic Needs Program for additional support.

If you advise or support students:

  • Advocate for linking to food security and other basic needs resources on department or other websites.
  • Add the Basic Needs website 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

  • Lead with empathy and humility. Focus on listening to the student’s concerns and validating the student’s experiences.
  • 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.
  • Provide information about the available resources while empowering the student to make choices about next steps. Ensure students know these resources are available to them, but that you are not requiring them to use them or report back to you.
  • 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.
  • Gently remind students there are generally enough resources available to meet the demonstrated need. For example, many students will refuse to utilize the student food pantry because they believe someone else deserves the assistance form. In truth, the student food pantry has more than enough food. This is an important step in reminding students they are deserving of the resources.
  • 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.