Combatting Hunger and Homelessness on Campus

International students are facing food and housing insecurity on campuses across the United States. Programs and resources, especially over school breaks, can help students to succeed.
Photo: Hayden Williams/Stocksy
Charlotte West

Maria Lopez* never expected that she would end up relying on the campus food pantry as an international student at a community college in Virginia. While she was studying business in the United States from 2017–19, both of her parents back home in Honduras became ill, which drastically changed her financial situation. (*Last name changed.)

“I had never asked for that kind of help. I have not been a rich person, but I have been able to pay my bills,” Lopez says. “I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t tell my mom or my dad what I was going through that because that would be more worry for them.”

As an international student, Lopez paid more than twice as much per credit as in-state residents and had to be enrolled full time in order to maintain her F-1 visa status. She desperately wanted to finish her business degree, because if she had to return to Honduras early, “all the money that I already had invested would be thrown away.” But to do so, Lopez needed to first take care of her basic necessities. 

There is growing awareness of hunger—and in some cases, homelessness—among students like Lopez on U.S. college campuses. International students are not immune to food and housing insecurity, despite some perceptions that they are better off financially than their domestic peers. With high tuition and limited access to financial aid, some international students are forced to cut back on their food expenses, while others who live on campus sometimes

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