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Partnership ensures basic needs are part of the college experience

The pandemic forever changed the college experience. It’s not shoulder-to-shoulder in hallways and lecture halls, as many students opt for hybrid or entirely online learning. Some skip the dorms and commute from home. But one thing that’s been a constant before and after are the financial challenges students face.

Let’s take food, for instance. According to the Education Data Initiative, Wisconsin college students spend an average of $290 on groceries, while college students across the country spend an average of $547 a month on food overall. But the reality is that some students simply can’t afford it. 

During the fall of 2016, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Association conducted a campus-wide survey addressing food insecurity. Those survey results revealed that roughly 50% of UWM students reported not having enough food to eat. One solution the university offers is a Food Center and Pantry to help students and faculty members access free food. 

Beyond helping hungry students, UWM has a Student Parent Success Program to assist and support low-income individuals pursuing a college degree while raising a child. During COVID, the university had more than 1,300 student parents — a significant nontraditional student population that had to balance paying for food, diapers and period products in addition to their education.

For this episode of Uniquely Milwaukee, I visited UWM to speak with students about the resources available to them and found that not all of them were aware of the helping hand. I also joined Milwaukee Diaper Mission on its distribution day at the university’s Food Center and Pantry and spoke to founder Meagan Johnson about the importance of providing basic necessities to college students.

Audio Storyteller / 88Nine On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee