Whittier College is doing their best to make sure the “broke, hungry college student” stereotype remains a reality for many. On May 17, 2021, Residential Life sent out their first email stating that the beginning move-in date for returning students for the Fall semester would be Aug. 16, but, in an email sent over two months later on Aug. 2, Residential Life stated that the student meal plan would not begin until Aug. 23 unless students were a part of “an early arrival group that has coordinated this with [them] already.” Although Whittier provided a move-in range starting on Aug. 16, students will not have access to food via their meal plan until a week after moving in.
By Aug. 2, many students likely had an idea of when they were moving in, and possibly scheduled travel plans if needed. If meal plans were not going to be activated until the day before classes begin, this should have been communicated alongside all other housing information for the Fall 2021 semester, starting on May 17. In 2019, a Temple University survey of 100 institutions found that 45 percent of students experienced food insecurity in the last month, a number that likely changed with the onset of COVID-19. According to California Budget and Policy Center, the average cost to feed one person per week in L.A. County is $67, which may not seem significant on its own, but, when paired with the financial burden many college students take on, it threatens the already-precarious balance of students trying to get a higher education and sustain themselves at the same time.
Whittier College does have a food pantry program, the Poet Pantry, that was created to address food insecurity among college students. During COVID-19, the program did contactless pick-up for those in need of food and offered paper bags of food to an estimated 10 – 15 students per week. The College has yet to send out an email regarding how the Poet Pantry will function this upcoming year. Still, the lack of communication regarding the lack of food for students renders the benefits of this program temporary . . . useless.
During a previous interview with the Quaker Campus, the Chair for the College’s COVID-19 Compliance Task Force Lisa Newton said that spreading move-in from the 16 – 23 of August for returning students was a decision that was meant to limit the crowding in residence halls at one time. Students are conveniencing the College by moving in throughout the week before the semester begins, but the College cannot return the same decency to students. If students are moving into their residence halls during a college-sanctioned period, it would stand to reason that the meal plan, which we are paying for, would also be activated so students would have access to food.
It is not that the Campus Inn is not open and serving food to students; they are doing so long as you are a member of an early arrival group (i.e. athletes and residential advisors) that has coordinated this with the College prior to move-in. The College not opening the CI to all students on campus despite approving and encouraging their move-in during this period makes it seem like they are unprepared for the onslaught of students dining on campus when the meal plan did open on Aug. 23. There is no reason that the meal plan and food should only be selectively available to specific students who got administration approval when the College is welcoming all residential students back to campus.
The bottom line is that students are returning to campus, so the College should be providing food to the students as well. We pay for housing and a meal plan; if housing is open to students, then the meal plan should as well. For the College to not advertise that the meal plan would not begin until Aug. 23 in advance of students’ move-in plans seems to show that the return to campus is not about students’ well-being, but, instead, it is about the College getting room and board money again. As much as we may complain about the quality of on-campus dining (and perhaps the safety during the incoming year), Whittier College should let students eat . . . anything.
Featured Image: Kristi Weyand / Quaker Campus