UK students on hunger strike want help for low-income peers
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A group of University of Kentucky students has started a hunger strike that they say won’t end until the administration creates a “basic needs center” to help low-income students.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports about seven students plan to drink only water until their demands are met. About another 50 students plan to limit their meals to one a day.
The strike began Wednesday and is organized by the group SSTOP Hunger. SSTOP stands for Sustainable Solutions to Overcome Poverty. The group wants a central resource center to help students who cannot afford food or rent. They say the resources offered currently are too difficult to access.
UK President Eli Capilouto sent a campus-wide email Thursday that explained what those resources are. They include a food pantry that students can use once a week and a certain number of free meals at campus dining halls. In addition, the UK LEADS program helps students with unmet financial needs while they are on campus.
“We don’t all agree on every aspect of how to address these issues,” Capilouto wrote of the striking students. “But while we may disagree in some of our specific approaches, we will never disrespect the concerns that have been raised or those who have raised them.”
Capilouto’s email directed students with immediate needs to six full-time employees in two different departments.
Beau Revlett is SSTOP’s director. He said UK’s services need to be centralized with a dedicated staff.
“As far as we’re aware there is no one who does this full time. It’s something they have to do on top of all their other responsibilities,” he said.
Revlett said the hunger strike is “a way to get the public to understand these issues.”
A basic needs center was one of the recommendations of a UK task force that has studied the issues for several years. That group’s survey found that 43 percent of the 2,000 UK students interviewed said they experienced food insecurity on campus. Nearly half of those reported actual hunger because they couldn’t afford to buy food. Eight percent of those interviewed said they had experienced housing insecurity.