Food insecurity is an issue that thousands of college students grapple with every day. It disproportionately affects low-income students of color, who are attending universities at a higher rate than ever. 

Food insecurity can be as common as having two full meals a day instead of three or repeatedly eating cheap foods that lack nutrition such as instant ramen. 

According to Harvard researchers, there are two types of food insecurity. Chronic food insecurity relates to students who never know where their next meal will come from. Episodic insecurity is less frequent, and can happen when dining halls are closed. Students who aren’t able to go home on holidays face episodic insecurity and struggle to feed themselves.


Food pantries are one solution schools employ to decrease student food insecurity. According to a 2018 report by the Government Accountability Office, 650 colleges, including all 10 UC’s, host pantries that offer free food to students who need it. UCSC is home to four food pantries. 


For students who cannot afford an unlimited meal plan or who live off campus, buying groceries is the cheapest option. In Santa Cruz, Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Costco are a few of the most popular options — but which is the best? 

Safeway is the most expensive of the three, although shoppers can acquire a club card for no charge and get discounts throughout the store. Trader Joe’s and Costco both set reasonable prices, but differ in two key ways. 

Costco sells products in bulk and requires a membership, which costs at least $60 annually. These aspects make Costco a better option for groups who buy groceries together. Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, is better suited for single shoppers looking for good prices. 

In terms of location, Trader Joe’s comes out on top. Its proximity to the Metro Center makes it a convenient stop for students. Safeway, too, can be reached quickly by bus, as the 16 travels close by and the 20 stops outside the parking lot. In comparison, Costco requires a 1.3 mile walk from the closest bus stop. 

Note: prices were calculated to single units, all products are cheapest option available