Next time you walk past college students in your town or see a university campus on the news, I encourage you to consider this: Roughly one out of every three college or university students in the U.S. is food insecure.

This is according to The Hope Center’s #RealCollege survey of 195,000 students across 42 states—and their results are sobering: 39 percent of students at two-year colleges and 29 percent of students at four-year colleges experience food insecurity, and one-third of two-year college students and one-quarter of four-year college students reported having skipped or cut down on the size of their meals. And this is while they are taking classes, and likely holding down one or several jobs and internships, and maintaining social and professional connections. Or taking care of family members.

And these challenges are sharply accentuated for Black and Indigenous folks. The Hope Center finds that 75 percent of Indigenous and 70 percent of Black students have faced some degree of food insecurity, housing insecurity, or homelessness.

It’s no surprise that things grew worse during COVID-19. Research from the journal Nutrients found that, throughout the pandemic, hunger among students in higher education spiked. A stunning 59.6 percent of students reported that they became less food-secure as a result of COVID-19. This is a crisis and it’s been overlooked for a long time.

But let’s talk about the solutions. Qualifying for food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP; formerly food stamps) is extraordinarily complex—and until recently, college students had to jump through even more hoops.

Before the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 passed last year, college students who were seeking SNAP had to not only meet all the preexisting eligibility criteria but also one additional requirement, like caring for a child, working a part-time job, or completing hours in a state- or federally-financed work-study program. The act temporarily expands SNAP access to now include college students who have an expected family contribution of US$0 or are eligible to participate in a work-study program: They only need to be eligible and do not need to have already completed their hours. These are key differences that make things a little easier.

Read the full article about food insecurity by Danielle Nierenberg at Food Tank.