One of the worst lies ever perpetrated by boomer-kind is the cruel cultural cliche that college students should subsist solely on cheap packets of Ramen noodles.
Ignoring the fact that your average chicken deserves more nutrition and nourishment than what such meals offer, or the large body of research that shows the physical and mental wellbeing of students suffers when their bodies languish from hunger, the widespread cultural acceptance of collegiate deprivation points to a wider systemic issue; mainly, the sweeping-under-the-rug of hunger and food insecurity in our society that turns the best of us into complacent maids.
Of course, nobody should head to bed without supper in this country of ours, college-bound or not. And the presence of hungry students on campuses still demands urgent attention and the quickest of remedies. Temple University estimates that 45% of students in any college or university experience hunger on a monthly basis. Assuming Penn State is ordinary in this regard, the conclusion that 45% of our peers struggle with food insecurity is not only warranted but also worthy of outrage. Hopefully, direct action directly follows from this anger.
But what must be remembered is that Penn State does not exist in a bubble, and has never been independent of the wider communities surrounding and supporting its functions. University Park calls State College (and the Centre County region as a whole) its home, and like any houseguest worth their salt, the university should act with succor toward the providers of hospitality.
Consider the following: nearly 21,000 residents of Centre County are food insecure, based on 2017 figures from Feeding America. Of this amount, about 8,000 people qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and rely upon the federal program to put food on their table. Since these numbers come from the bygone era of 2017, it can be assumed that the pandemic (not to mention general widening inequality) has caused the ranks of food insecure households to swell.
If such considerations do not cause your head to shake, consider also checking that it's screwed on properly. Dwight D. Eisenhower once lamented that unchecked militarism signifies "a theft from those who hunger and are not fed." The only real solution is to get militant about stopping such thefts and robberies from continually occurring instead.
As one departs from the monied districts of State College and delves deeper into the more rural expanses of Centre County, socioeconomic conditions decrease in real-time. With this decrease comes an increased likelihood of food insecurity.
We are stronger than our systemic weaknesses, however, and Penn State is obliged to assist in storing up quality food for hungry residents just as much as the local, state and federal government. By decreasing the amount of food insecurity both among and beyond the student body, the university can better serve and honor the communities currently hosting it.
The Lion's Pantry food bank and other such initiatives are doing admirable jobs combating student hunger. Free groceries and repasts reveal a university abundant in compassion. This compassion is capable of expansion, however, and efforts to stop student hunger should aim to stop hunger full-stop.
Penn State could partner with local governments and craft larger networks of nutritional assistance. The roughly 455,000 pounds of food wasted at the dining commons might instead end up feeding the malnourished of Centre County. Perhaps partnerships with nonprofits could increase the ease and efficiency of such ambitions.
Any effort to remove not only the stigma around but the existence of food insecurity itself is worthy of praise.
We must not forget the needs of the starved, but rather fill the hungry with good things indeed.
Daily Collegian Opinion Editor David Tilli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.