English Essay on “Students Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Books and Food,”

Argumentative Essay on “Students Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Books and Food,”

Students seek higher education to improve their quality of life and wellbeing, both in the short and long-term. While this is in itself a noble goal, some students lack access to the most basic of human needs, food, while pursuing higher education. In the article titled “Students Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Books and Food,” Clare Cady enumerates the experiences of some college and university students who have to choose between an education and food. The current essay examines Cady’s argument in support of the claim that this is a choice that students should not be subjected to because college education should contribute towards poverty eradication, as opposed to causing it.

In support of her argument, Cady opines that exposing students to hunger should not be viewed as a rite of passage. In this case, Cady endeavors to discount the arguments by a number of scholars who are of the view that making sacrifices and struggling is the norm among college students. For most student, pursuing higher education acts as a stepping stone to social and economic endowment. This is because students with a college diploma tend to earn higher, on average, compared to their peers who have none.  In this case, a better job means that an individual can improve his/her quality of life and also support his/her family.  Cady opines that in the absence of such an opportunity, such ambitions are reduced to mere pipe dreams. This is because an increasingly higher number of college students are faced with hunger, and hence cannot pursue an education in such a state. Cady reports on the findings of a study conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab in 2015, and whose survey findings showed that a fifth (20 percent) of the respondents (attending community college) admitted to experiencing hunger.

Other similar findings have reported higher incidents of hunger among college students. For example, a 2011 study undertaken by the City University of New York established that 39 percent of students at the institution were faced with the risk of starvation (Freudenberg et al. 3). It is important to note that a student who is at risk of starvation cannot prioritise on his/her educational needs, and as such, there is the risk of declined academic performance.

Elsewhere, the findings of a survey of students attending a midsize rural university in Oregon established that 59 percent of the students were at risk of hunger (Patton-Lopez et al. 1). Such findings depict a gloomy picture of the correlation between hunger and college attendance since the national statistics indicate that about 14 percent of the households in the United States are at risk of starvation. Therefore, college students could be at higher risk of going hungry. Faced with such a tough choice of either education or food, giving up on college education appears to be the most obvious option. However, Cady reports that this is an option that many college students are unwilling to pursue. This is because such students view education as the only tool with which to break the poverty cycle they have been subjected. In this case, education empowers students and their families.

In writing this article, Cady sought to explore the various systematic solutions that colleges and universities can pursue in an attempt to deal with the problem of hunger faced by needy students.  However, having to choose between food and books is not the only problem the needy students face. They also have to contend with the challenge of access to affordable housing and transportation to colleges and universities. Cady also sought to influence policymakers at both the local and federal levels so that they can change laws on financial assistance. For example, providing needy students with free cards enable them access transportation to college. Accordingly, the author’s audience includes local and federal policymakers, institutions of higher learning, students, among educational; stakeholders. After identifying hunger, transportation, and housing as the main problems facing needy students, Cady proposes plausible policy changes that could be effected in an attempt to tackle these problems, whereby local, national, and federal policymakers could support students gain skills and education, thereby improving their lives.  Colleges and universities could also play a role by providing emergency assistance funds, gift cards, and eradicating the criteria for eligibility into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

In supporting her claim that college and university students are faced with the problem of hunger, which, in turn, hinders their pursuit for higher education, Cady relies on evidence from diverse studies conducted by leading institutions of higher learning in the United States.  For example, Goldrick-Rab et al. surveyed over 4,000 undergraduate students across ten community colleges and established that housing and food insecurity are the leading problems among nearly 50% of all community college students (Goldrick-Rab et al. 2). Also, 20 percent of such students are hungry (Goldrick et al. 2). Moreover, Freudenberg et al., in a survey of CUNY undergraduate students, found that housing instability and food insecurity were common challenges faced by 24.3 percent of the students (Goldrick-Rab et al. 4). These findings are indicative of the need to develop comprehensive and multi-pronged policies at the local, institutional, and state levels to overcome barriers of poverty to which college students are subjected, which, in turn, hinders their access to educational success.

In the article, Cady presents her arguments in an easy to understand and logical manner. She starts by identifying the problem of hunger faced by college students and then relates it to poverty and other related problems such as lack of access to affordable housing and problems. She then proposes systemic solutions to deal with these systemic problems, including policy changes at local and federal levels.  While Cady has also addressed claims by other scholars that having to make sacrifices and struggle is part and parcel of being a student, she relies on the findings of various studies to arrive at the argument that hunger among college students is a real threat. She thus calls on the input of various stakeholders including institutions of higher learning and policymakers.


The author of the article under review has presented the information in an easy to understand and logical manner. She begins by identifying the problem of hunger faced by college students and then relates it to poverty among other problems such as lack of access to affordable housing and transportation. She then proposes systemic solutions to deal with these systemic problems, including policy changes at the local and federal levels. Her arguments in support of her position are backed by facts and evidence from various studies conducted whose findings highlight that hunger is indeed a perennial problem in colleges and universities.


Works Cited

Cady, Clare. ‘Students Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Books and Food’. February 28, 2016.

Web. The Chronicle of Higher Education. http://www.chronicle.com/article/Students


Freudenberg, Nicholas, Luis Manzo, Hollie Jones, Amy Kwan, Emma Tsui and Monica Gagnon.

Food Insecurity at CUNY:  Results from a Survey of CUNY Undergraduate Students.

Healthy CUNY Initiative, City University of New York, April 2011

Goldrick-Rab, Sara, Katharine Broton, and Daniel Eisenberg. Hungry to Learn: Addressing

            Food & Housing Insecurity Among Undergraduates, Wisconsin HOPE Lab, December

Patton-Lopez, Megan M, Daniel Lopez-Cevallos, Doris, Cancel-Tirado and Leticia, Vazquez,

Leticia. Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Students Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon. January 09, 2009.