Institute Director Nicholas Freudenberg, along with colleagues from other universities, was featured in USA Today in a letter to the editor in response to an op-ed by James Bovard on food insecurity among college students.

Letter to the editor:

James Bovard exhibits little knowledge of higher education and college students, ignorance about the relationship between food insecurity and obesity, bigotry based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and limited understanding of research methods.

Contrary to his assertions, students today work hard. One in four students has a child, 70% are employed and all face higher-than-ever tuition prices. Far from a “largesse,” the Pell grant covers just 1/3 of the cost of attending a public university. Bovard’s claim that food insecure people are lazy is undermined by the fact that food insecurity and work hours are positively correlated.

Many studies affirm the HOPE Lab’s findings. Studies at California State University and University of California found that 42-44% of students experienced food insecurity. At CUNY, the nation’s largest urban public university, studies show that about 60,000 students are food insecure. Hunger is the colloquial term for food insecurity used by regular Americans. The HOPE Lab didn’t “redefine” hunger but employed the USDA’s standardized, validated module. Moreover, weight gain doesn’t contradict evidence of food insecurity, as the two are positively correlated in the United States.

Finally, the greater risk of food insecurity faced by non-binary and LGBTQ students has nothing to do with “cavorting.” The financial aid system disadvantages students estranged from their families, and students cut off from loved ones because of gender identity or sexual orientation often incur painful financial consequences. Making fun of those students is simply cruel.

Nick Freudenberg of City University of New York School of Public Health, Sara Goldrick-Rab of Temple University, Suzanna Martinez of University of California Nutrition Policy Institute, and Aydin Nazmi of California Polytechnic State University

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