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Boise State Joins Study of Student Food and Housing Insecurity

Lillian Smith, associate professor and department head for the Department of Community and Environmental Health, and Lauren Oe, associate dean of students, partnered with Student Affairs to lead an effort to study the prevalence of food and housing insecurity for students on Boise State’s campus and to participate in a national research initiative.

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice is a nonprofit research center focused on rethinking and restructuring higher education and social policies, practices, and resources to create opportunities for all students to complete college degrees. “#RealCollege” students, students who are affected by life, logistics, and lack of resources that ultimately alter the outcome of their college career, are the new majority but they are often ignored. The center uses a rigorous research team to drive innovative practice, evidence-based policymaking, and effective communications to support #RealCollege students.

For the last three years, The Hope Center has conducted nationwide #RealCollege surveys to study basic needs insecurity at more than 100 colleges and universities. The purpose of this survey is to aid institutions in understanding the magnitude of food and housing insecurity on its campus, and find ways they can reshape practices and drive a national conversation about students’ basic needs and the challenges in improving college retention.

Smith and Oe, recognizing the need for a deeper understanding of the prevalence of food and housing insecurity for students at Boise State, arranged for the university to participate in the 2018 #RealCollege survey. The survey was distributed to 6,000 students enrolled at Boise State University via email in September, with the objective of collecting data on the prevalence of basic needs insecurity within the student body. Results will be used to drive campus initiatives to create effective and accessible support resources for students struggling with food and housing insecurity as well as reduce the stigma around students accessing these resources.

Boise State University students currently can receive assistance for food and housing insecurity with resources such as: the Student Emergency Fund, a fund that provides financial assistance to Boise State University students who are in danger of withdrawing due to unanticipated, temporary financial hardships resulting from emergency or crisis situations (e.g., accident, illness, death of a family member); the Meal Assistance Program, in partnership with Campus Services and Aramark, the Meal Assistance Program provides no-cost meals to Boise State students facing food insecurity as they can receive 10 meal swipes to be used within a two-month timeframe; and the Campus Food Pantry, an area within the Office of the Dean of Students that offers students nourishing and cost-effective meal and snack options as well as nutritional guidance and education.

To contribute to the Boise State University Student Emergency Fund, contact Nikki Hanson at or (208) 426-2564.

Visit The Hope Center to learn more.

Learn more about Boise State University’s assistance programs.