4 min read

College Food Insecurity and Why We Care

When most people hear the words “college food” we think about ramen noodles, microwavable meals and dining halls. For a lot of us, those are fond thoughts, great memories or even things we are currently experiencing. If this evokes a positive feeling it is likely because you had or currently have food options in college. While we don’t want to make assumptions, we are going to make a broad statement about a typical college experience for a moment. As a student, you may be choosing cheap, salty food over your allotted school meal plan for a few reasons: 1) it is quick and easy (and delicious), 2) you don’t feel like walking across campus, or 3) you know that you’ll be getting your monthly allowance for food from your parents soon. However, we also want to make it very clear that this generalization is NOT true for millions of college students in the US.

Hungry student sitting on campus

The issue of college food insecurity is a problem that is being uncovered as we speak. It is an issue that has existed on campuses for decades, but until students and academics began speaking up and researching the issue it remained unseen.  Even though there have been massive hunger relief efforts in the United States since the 1970s, there has always been an assumption that if someone made it to college, they must be middle class and they will be okay. Thus, most of the nation’s hunger relief efforts have focused on other vulnerable populations, like children and seniors. While this assumption of student privilege may have been true in years gone by, we now know that 71% of the nation’s students are currently considered “non-traditional.”  This means that they are not coming right from high school, may have children or are working full time. Many of these non-traditional students are not being supported by their parents and don’t always live on campus. Therefore, the programs that were designed to feed students on campus (e.g expensive dining hall plans that serve at specific times in the day) do not adequately support these students. As a result, nearly half of US college students have experienced food insecurity.  

This staggering reality is unacceptable. It means that students who are working, raising a family and going to school may drop out because they don’t have enough to eat. At Soylent we were appalled to learn about this issue from our incredible partners at Swipe Out Hunger. After we did our own research to dig into the issue, we knew we had to get involved. Over the past year we have partnered with The Hope Center as well as MAZON to support research, convenings and policy recommendations that focus on building a food secure future for all students.

Now that it’s August and students are heading back to school, it is time to get involved in a big way. Our friends at Swipe Out Hunger are able to leverage their network of 82 universities and can provide 7 meals for every dollar donated. This incredible and efficient impact is growing with every donation. The nonprofit’s CEO Rachel Sumekh told us that if we are able to support Swipe Out Hunger’s back to school efforts, the organization would be able to provide meals to thousands of additional students on many more campuses -- so that is exactly what we’re doing.

A woman giving a bottle of Soylent to a student in need

During the entire month of August, we are donating the financial equivalent of one meal ($0.14) for every bottle of Soylent sold, up to 500,000 meals. This means for every single bottle (meal) sold on our website, on Amazon and in retail we are donating a meal to a student!

So here is how YOU can get involved. First, buy extra Soylent this month so we can hit our goal to help thousands of additional students. Next, we are encouraging you to do your homework -- learn about this issue and talk to your friends and family about it. We know that public perception is telling us that college students “will be okay,” but that isn’t true for all, and we have to create a wave of impact together.  Last, if there is a college campus near you (and we know there is, because there are campuses everywhere!) find out if it has a Swipe Out Hunger student group, campus food pantry or is even thinking about this issue. You can create change and we want to work on this with you!

If you have other ideas of how to fight college student hunger, we are all ears. Email us at and let’s fight food insecurity on campus together!

You can also read what the CEO of Swipe Out Hunger says about our partnership on her blog post here.