At the beginning of each semester, every student has a checklist of things they need: Pens, pencils, notebooks and probably the most expensive item—Textbooks. But, what happens when back to school expenses cost more than students can afford? Students are faced with the hard decision of textbooks versus their basic needs, and unfortunately, this is growing issues colleges students have to face.
“In spring of 2019, I had a student in my office and she broke down crying because she had literally had to make the choice to buy her textbooks instead of food,” said Jasmine Linabary, chair and faculty representative of the Basic Needs Coalition and assistant professor of communication.
This was the event that really spurred Linabary to create the Emporia At the Table initiative, which is focused on ending food insecurity in the campus and greater Emporia communities.
“When you’re in a crisis, like when you’re experiencing basic needs concerns, you’re not in a good place to have to search out that information,” Linabary said. “Our goal was to create this like one website where you could go to get all the information you needed about resources that exist.”
Nearly 3 out of 5 ESU students have experienced some form of a basic need insecurity, according to a 2020 study of 478 students by The Hope Center.
“We want them to know that we have resources for them,” said Lauren Moon, vice president of Associated Student Government. “We want to talk to them and hear their stories and help them however we can.”
To help destigmatize the topic and encourage others to reach out for help, Linabary said that having first-hand accounts goes a long way.
“If you’re someone who has experienced basic needs insecurity, speaking out can be huge,” Linabary said. “We’re always looking for students who are willing to share their stories, or even be a public advocate or ambassador because it’s the stories of real student experiences that often move people to action, but also inspire others, and empower other students to tell their stories.”
This is not an ESU only issue, college students across the country are faced with basic needs issues. Though, some campuses are less open to talking about the problem at hand.
“Other campuses aren’t as open to this conversation,” Linabary said. “I feel extremely fortunate to be at a place where the vast majority of our administrators get it and recognize that this is an issue.”
For students and community members who are looking to help, Linabary said it’s best to get familiar with the resources listed on their page.
“There’s a support students page on our website,” Linabary said. “It’s just a great way to find somebody. We always encourage people to start by getting to know our existing resources, because you can’t share them if you don’t know what they are.”