Food insecurity is real, here are 5 meals under $5 on campus

TV shows and movies often promote the “broke college student” stereotype, and pop culture normalizes being sleep-deprived and hungry en route to your degree. 

But these stereotypes are very real for many students who face food insecurity, on and off campus.

“Food insecurity is when students do not have access to a sufficient amount of food or in some cases, don’t have access to a sufficient amount of healthy food that [can] provide proper nutrition,” Haunbio Mo, interim dean of nutrition, said. 

Georgia State is a diverse campus with a diverse group of students, many of whom maintain halal, kosher, vegan, vegetarian or pescetarian diets. These students may struggle to find satisfactory food choices that students who have fewer restrictions or eat meat do not face. 

“It’s not cheap; there are so many factors that fall into making sure you get the food that you need,” Mya Grant, a senior journalism major at Georgia State, said. “If you are a huge college like [Georgia State] and are constantly accepting students, you need to be able to include them in these meal plans.”

In addition to the variety of food, finances play a huge role in the food students can access. Patton, Piedmont North and Piedmont Central, three of five Georgia State dorms, all require meal plans, so students living there are likely to get the majority of their meals in the dining halls. The closest grocery stores to campus are a Publix and Whole Foods, both about one to three miles from campus in Midtown. For students without transportation, it may be harder to access affordable or healthy options. 

“It is quite a widespread problem across campuses around the nation. I think the cost of high education is one of the factors. Also in some cases, the geographical role may play a part as well,” Mo said. “The nearest grocery store with fresh fruits and vegetables is probably miles away, and if you do not have a car, that could be a problem.”

Another problem that many students face coupled with food insecurity is being a commuter. Not knowing where your next meal is going to come from is not something that is limited to those who live on campus. Commuter students may not have access to proper food at home and traveling can take additional time out of the day busy students might need to take for a meal.

“Living on my own, trying to go grocery shopping on my own … that first time in the grocery store, I was completely lost,” Grant said. “Because what do I get? What is going to last for the next few weeks until I can get some more money and go back to the grocery store?”

Not having the proper amount of healthy nutrients can affect one’s health. According to Mo, there are studies that show not eating and malnutrition, as well as not eating the right foods, can actually make someone gain weight. The burden of being hungry can also cause damage to mental and emotional health, even causing mood swings. If a student is overbearingly hungry, it may be hard to concentrate on school work or other responsibilities that need to be taken care of.

“Basically, the sugar — if you don’t have it, it causes mood swings and you’re mad if you don’t get it,” Christiana Mitchell, senior administrator at the psychology department, said. “It’s just like a drug addiction; sugar is the devil.” 

The Student Government Association has expressed a desire to partner with the nutrition department and food vendors to get more options for students with dietary restrictions. Panther’s Pantry , is available to any student with an ID. 

“Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown came to visit [the] pantry and we discussed a lot of potential of collaboration of expanding the pantry to better meet the needs of the students,” Mo said.

Mo said the Office of Student Engagement has started the process of expanding the pantry to the Perimeter campuses as well. There are currently locations on the Downtown and Dunwoody campuses, with one slated to open during this fall semester on the Decatur campus and another to open in Spring on the Clarkston campus.

The Panther’s Pantry  was established in 2015 by a cohort of students in the combined internship and master’s program. At the time, about 64% of undergraduate and graduate students claimed to have suffered from food insecurity, and as a result, they wrote up a business plan for a food pantry.

“A lot of universities have them but ours was started through graduate students in nutrition,” Molly Paulson, the faculty advisor for Panther’s Pantry , said.

Students can shop in the pantry once a week, anonymously. 

“We don’t ask questions,” Paulson said.

According to Paulson, the Panther’s Pantry  experiences a growth in the number of students it serves every year. They now have two rooms for students to shop from and recently received refrigerators to store more fresh fruits and vegetables. 

“The first week we were open, which was Labor Day, we [served] about 130 students and that compared to last year [where] we did maybe 60 students the first week we were open,” Paulson said.

Panther’s Pantry is located in the B-Lot parking garage under the Urban Life building. Paulson said she wants students to be aware of the opportunity provided at Panther’s Pantry , given that the population of food insecure students is growing. 

The pantry is not open through the Maymester and most of August, December and January, but it is open throughout spring and fall and the beginning of the summer session before it closes the last week of July. 

The pantry is working with Embark, an on campus resource that provides assistance to homeless students, to help students get the resources they need, such as transportation, in order to have healthy food. 

Students can shop at the Panther’s Pantry , go view the food demos Panther’s Pantry  has to offer or visit the Georgia State’s nutrition website for recipes and healthy food tips.

“Only when you’re educated can you make good choices,” Mo said. 


Editor’s Note: Mya Grant is a former member of The Signal.


5 Meals under $5 

Nutrition is necessary, so skip the cheap vending machine snacks and get a meal on a budget with these five options, all found at Panther Club in Student Center West. 


1. Pasta $4.99

A bowl of pasta with your choice of vegetables, chicken, shrimp or sausage, and marinara, alfredo sauce or pesto sauce, found at Trattoria 1913.


2. Six wings and one sauce $4.99

Six wings with a sauce of your choosing; ranch, lemon pepper, sweet chili, hot, hot lemon pepper, barbeque and teriyaki wings. Found at Garden Grill.


3. Turkey burger $4.29

A burger with a turkey meat patty, found at Garden Grill.


4. Cheese quesadilla $4.29

A flour tortilla with a melted cheddar cheese blend, found at Garden Grill.


5. Black bean burger $4.69

A burger with a black bean patty, found at Garden Grill.


Honorable mention: 6” meat and cheese hoagie $5.49