By Brennan Sullivan
Roosevelt held a seminar to address and discuss the issue of food insecurity which has become increasingly prevalent in the United States.
The lecture, held on the seventh floor of the Auditorium building, was lead by Craig Gundersen. Gundersen is a specialist in the field of applied economics whose works primarily focus on the the causes and effects of food insecurity, as well as the efficacy of the food assistance programs designed to minimize the issue. Gundersen is currently the soybean industry endowed professor in agricultural strategy and consumer economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
After highlighting the severity of the food insecurity endemic, Gunderson directed most of the lecture toward examining how the government-funded program SNAP, which stands for supplemental nutrition assistance program, has helped the United States combat domestic hunger.
Gundersen said SNAP issues food stamps to households, depending on features such as income level and family size, so they can expand their monthly food budget.. Gundersen said SNAP serves around 45 million Americans and costs the government about $80 billion per year.
Though some economists like Gundersen have praised the program’s success, there has been criticism of SNAP as well. A major concern is that SNAP recipients will be less motivated to work or obtain higher-paying jobs. Gundersen said that the claim is false as there has been no study conducted to show evidence of this.
The overall message of the discussion was that the program is rewarding both to its recipients and to the nation as a whole. After the lecture, Gundersen said the easiest way to solve food insecurity in our country was to “dramatically increase the funding to SNAP and make it much more accessible to citizens.”
Second-year graduate student in economics, April Burrage, said that prior to attending the lecture she did not know a lot about the topic.
“I didn’t realize how complex the issue of food insecurity was and the amount of factors that played into it,” Burrage said.
Similarly, junior sustainability studies major Charlton Zimmerman said he was able to learn about food insecurity through the lecture.
“The topic of food insecurity was never brought up to me before I came to Roosevelt,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also said food insecurity is not addressed enough in politics.
“I believe our politicians need to speak about food insecurity more because it is a social justice and civil rights issue. It is also an economic issue,” he said.
Zimmerman offered a way he believes Roosevelt could join the fight against hunger in the U.S. He said the university should start a free or reduced lunch program to help students from financially unprivileged families.