Books or food: Hunger on campus

After years in Exile, the people of Israel return home. Instead of gathering in the temple, Ezra reads the law in a public space so that all - men and women - could hear the Word of the Lord. where all And as they departed, they were encouraged to eat delectable foods, drink sweet wine, and even to send a share to those who didn’t have it to eat and to drink. After years of suffering, God’s promise that the Joy of the Lord is their strength. God blesses the world then and today with enough food to eat so that we may all be healthy.  Through our faith, we can advocate so that all may be fed.

Before exile, many of the prophets warned the leaders that their wealth accumulation was coming at the expense of the people in the community. Today, a similar alarm should be ringing when our college students struggle to study to become doctors, social workers, and programmers because they are hungry. With changing demographics on college campuses comes the increase of students from households with not enough income to make ends meet.

Even at Capital University, a small, private Lutheran university in Bexley, Ohio, the need food among students is up. “We’ve had over [the] course of the last two weeks 28 visits to the Cap Cupboard,” said Wagner.

Changing family dynamics, children, parents without savings, and the growing cost of higher education leaves many students struggling. Hunger is most prevalent among college students at community colleges where non-traditional students are more likely to be studying. The state of Ohio, for example, has cut more than a billion dollars of investment from our public colleges and universities in addition to reductions in Pell grants. The economics allowed a student to work part time, receive a few grants, and take out a modest loan or two and afford college. Now, students are required to take out tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to cover tuition - leaving little left for food.

As college students struggle with hunger, college students are finding solutions - setting up on campus pantries, meal swipe donation plans, and other efforts to help their classmates. These are great ideas and should be applauded as the first step to respond to the crisis. The next step is to seek to address the root causes of hunger on campus by increasing living subsidies for non-traditional students and reducing tuition.

Jesus begins his public ministry in Luke 4 by declaring justice and freedom for the marginalized and oppressed. The rest of Luke’s Gospel builds from this initial scripture. This scripture from Isaiah proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor - which is a reference to Leviticus 25 and economic realities to address extreme poverty and hunger! As wealth flows to the wealthiest parts of our communities, tax cuts take dollars out of our schools, and families struggle to save and invest in their children, we are called to respond. Through the waters of baptism, we have been grafted into solidarity with Christ to speak up for the hungry.