“My four-year plan for a college degree, turned into six years. I’ve had an unconventional path working towards my public health degree because I had to take time off to work to save more money for college,” Maren, age 24 explains. Maren is proudly pursuing her goals but paying for tuition, books and all of her other expenses has been stressful too. “Food insecurity has made a huge impact on my life because I don’t always know where my next meals are going to come from,” she says.
Like many college students, Maren often skips meals in order to cover other expenses.
“People don’t understand how you can be privileged enough to go to college and at the same time be food insecure, but I feel it is actually really common. Like a lot of students, I am food insecure because the time commitment school takes means I can’t work more than 15 or 20 hours a week. Between going to classes, studying and completing my assignments, and doing an unpaid internship for my major – that only leaves a few extra hours to work which means I’m not earning much money,” Maren explains.
She has taken out loans to help her pay for her education and her family helps her out with some living costs as much as they can but there is still not enough money to cover all of her expenses. Maren is grateful that a monthly visit to Keystone’s Midway Food Shelf means she can access healthy food and stretch her limited budget.
Keystone’s food shelf helps Maren stretch her budget.
“Being able to go to the food shelf has been so helpful for me.” Each month, Maren visits the food shelf on University Avenue which is close to campus. After a trip to the food shelf, she often has enough fresh pre-packaged salad mix, vegetables and fruit to last for more than a week. “I’m always so impressed by the variety and quantity of items, especially fresh food that I can get from the food shelf,” Maren says.
Experiencing food insecurity has helped Maren connect with some of her peers.
“I used to have a lot of shame about not having enough food, but it helped me to know that a lot of students are in the same boat. Not everyone knows about Keystone’s food shelf but I’ve told a lot of students about it. Now we know that it isn’t shameful to need some assistance. Just like many students have to take out loans because we didn’t have enough money for school – many students like me have to go to the food shelf because we don’t have enough food. My friends and I talk about what it’s like to be hungry and how hard it is to study or work when you are hungry. I’m just grateful the food shelf is there.”
Experiencing food insecurity and learning about programs like Keystone has helped Maren discern some goals for her future.
“I’m majoring in Public Health Science and I’m really interested in food justice. I eventually want to work in public policy, global health or mental health focused on food justice and food insecurity. I want to be able to give back to my community.”