Basic Needs

Ohio University Guide to Assist Students Challenged by Basic Needs

Important Facts

Today’s student faces increased costs of higher education while federal grants and loans continue to shrink. A percentage of our students are food and housing insecure, homeless, or one emergency away from dropping out of school because of their inability to pay their bills. These challenges can negatively impact the success of students impacting their class attendance, GPA, and overall sense of well-being. Faculty and staff have a significant role to play in identifying students at-risk for food and housing insecurity and providing referrals to resources. 

National Statistics on Student Food and Housing Insecurity

  • 48% of all respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days.   
  • 22% of all respondents are qualified as hungry. 
  • 25% of all respondents who identified as having low food security attended community colleges. 
  • 20% of all respondents who identified as having low food security attended 4-year institutions. 
  • Food insecurity is more prevalent among students of color (57%) as compared to non-Hispanic white students (40%). 
  • 56% of 1st generation students were food insecure. 
  • 64% of food insecure students reported experiencing some type of housing insecurity. 
  • 15% of food insecure students reported experiencing some form of homelessness in the past 12 months. 
  • 32% of food insecure students in the study believed that hunger or housing issues impacted their education. 
    • 55% reported that these concerns caused them to not buy required textbooks. 
    • 53% reported missing a class. 
    • 25% reported dropping a class. 
  • 56% of food insecure students reported having a job and of those, 38% worked more than 20 hours a week. 
  • Of those attending a 4-year institution in this study, 43% of meal plan enrollees still experienced food insecurity.  
    • 75% of food insecure students received some form of financial aid. 
    • 52% received Pell Grants 
    • 37% took student loans 
  • 61% of food insecure students reported that their household had utilized at least one existing aid service in the past 12 months. 

Study Demographics: 3,765 students in 12 states attending 8 community colleges and 26 4-year institutions. View source.

Recognizing Students Who Might be Struggling with Basic Needs

Multiple factors may indicate that a student is experiencing homelessness or housing and food insecurity. Some students may be embarrassed or feel shame about their situation, so the extent of the situation might not be immediately clear. Faculty and staff who understand warning signs and services offered will be more equipped to recognize and refer the student. The following list is not exhaustive, and not all students who experience these signs are housing or food insecure, as the signs may be due to other concerns, but these signs can often be indicators of a basic needs issue.  

Warning Signs

  • Inconsistent or decrease in classroom attendance 
  • Disconnected within the classroom 
  • Sleeping in campus libraries  
  • Consistently failing to complete assignments 
  • Avoidance of personal details 
  • Sleep deprivation or falling asleep in class 
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing 
  • Reporting not doing the work because they haven't purchased the textbook 
  • Increased level of distress  
  • Hopelessness 
  • Disrupted eating patterns 
  • Poor health and diet  
  • Poor personal hygiene 
  • Wearing the same clothes continually without them being cleaned 
  • Student discloses that they have been sleeping in their car, couch surfing, do not have anywhere to stay over the break period, have not been eating, do not have enough money to pay for food or bills, etc.  


How Can I Help? 


Issues of food and housing insecurity and homelessness can come with a significant deal of stigma. If someone does disclose that they are facing these challenges you have several options to offer support. You can refer them directly to the Dean of Students office, complete one of the online nomination forms for emergency grants or housing insecurity, or suggest one of the resources in this folder. We encourage you to also reach out to the Dean of Students office to share these concerns.  

Referral Steps: 
  1. Thank them for sharing with you 
    • “I’m really glad you told me what’s going on with you.” 
    • “I’m sure it was hard to share that struggle with me, thank you for trusting me.” 
  2. Acknowledge the challenge they are facing 
    • “I can’t imagine how hard it is to focus in class when you are hungry.” 
    • “Not having stable housing is very stressful.” 
  3. Discuss options for support 
    • “Did you know we have a food pantry in Baker Center, open to any student? It’s a resource here for students who might be struggling financially.” 
    • “The Dean of Students office may be able to help with an Emergency Microgrant.”  
  4. Follow-up to see if they accessed the resource or need more help 
    • “Were you able to connect with the Dean of Students office?” 
    • “Has your situation improved?” 

Faculty Syllabus Statement  

It’s not always easy to know which students might be struggling with housing or food insecurity, to be proactive about these issues, consider adding a Basic Needs syllabus statement: 

Basic Needs: Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students Office for support by emailing The Food Pantry is located on the 5th floor of Baker Center and is open to all students. 

Emergency Microgrant Program  

Today’s student faces increased costs of higher education while federal grants and loans continue to shrink. Many students are one emergency away from dropping out of school because of their inability to pay their bills. The solution we have turned to are emergency microgrant programs.  These grants are typically under $1000 and can support students who are experiencing a financial crisis, that for many of us would be an uncomfortable hit to our savings account, but for these students, it may mean walking away from an undergraduate or graduate degree.   

Students must apply for these emergency grants, or be nominated by faculty or staff, and provide necessary documentation. This process allows for student at financial risk for leaving to institution to connect with an assistant dean of students who can provide additional resources, referrals, and financial education. 

Micro-Grant Guidelines: 
  • Grants do not typically exceed $1000, and are specific to the identified need. 
  • Generally, grants can only be awarded once per academic year. 
What Micro-Grants Cover: 
  • Safety needs (changing of locks, temporary housing changes) 
  • Replacement of belongings, including text books, due to fire, theft or natural disaster 
  • Medical/Dental bills/Medication (cannot cover outstanding balances) 
  • Housing/Rent/Utilities 
  • Food/Groceries  
  • Personal Automobile/Travel 
  • Child care 
  • Other emergency or unforeseen circumstances
 What Micro-Grants do NOT Cover:  
  • Tuition and Fees
  • Legal Fines/Expenses
  • Parking Tickets/Fines
  • Health Insurance
  • Study Abroad costs

Apply on the Emergency Microgrants page of Bobcats Helping Bobcats

Questions about the programs can be directed to the Office of the Dean of Students at or 740-593-1800. 

Ohio University Services Available to Students  

Cats' Cupboard Food Pantry in Baker University Center

OHIO recognizes that some students may not have enough to eat on a daily or weekly basis. 

The Food Pantry, located on the fifth floor of Baker University Center, is open to anyone in need. 

Bobcats Helping Bobcats Meal Bank

Athens students who are on a Traditional, Flex, or Block Meal Plan can donate up to three meals during a specified donation week in both the Fall and Spring semesters. Those meals will then be available to students experiencing hunger on our campus. 

To access the Meal Bank, students need to complete a short online application that can be found on the Meal Bank page.  Applications are reviewed by the Dean of Students Office.  

Thanks to Culinary Services for making this program possible and donating meals to create the Meal Bank. 

Career Closet

Put your best self forward at a career fair or in an interview by shopping the university's library of professional clothing—the Career Closet. The closet provides students with business professional and business casual clothes for interviews, career fairs, formal events or any career-related function, both on and off campus.

Visit the Career Closet at Mcguffey Hall

Cap and Gown Loan Program

Due to the generosity of Event Services, a select number of caps and gowns will be available for loan to students who face a financial barrier to purchase their own. We invite faculty and staff to share this application with students who would otherwise not participate in this important event because they are unable to purchase regalia. 

Students can apply on the Cap and Gown Loan Program page. 

If a student has already purchased a cap and gown, we are not able to offer refunds. 

Housing Help

Sometimes students find themselves housing insecure or in situations where they are at-risk for homelessness. Common examples include: 

  • Living in a shelter, on the streets, in a car 
  • Fourteen days from losing current housing and no safe alternatives – like an eviction, including from university housing 
  • Fleeing housing due to violence or threat of violence 

Ohio University is here to help. Complete the online intake form on the Housing Help page and someone from the Dean of Students office will reach out to explore campus and community options. Faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to Dean of Students office if they believe they have a student who is housing insecure or homeless. Some of the resources available include: 

  • Break Housing 
    • Not all students have a home to return to over the winter and summer breaks. On-campus housing is offered at a daily rate and financial support is available for those that qualify through the intake process. 
  • Temporary Emergency Housing 
    • Students experiencing a housing crisis that results in homeless should complete the housing intake form to see if they qualify for temporary emergency housing or community-based services. 

Ohio University Resources 

Dean of Students Office

345 Baker University Center 

Staff in the Office of the Dean of Students can help connect students experiences housing or food insecurity to Ohio University and Athens community resources.  

Cats’ Cupboard 

514 Baker University Center 

This service provides access to fresh, frozen, and shelf stable food to students experiencing food insecurity or hunger.  

Housing and Residence Life

111 South Green Drive 

Staff in the Housing and Residence Life office can help connect students to on campus resources and can assist with finding on-campus housing accommodations for enrolled students. 

Counseling and Psychological Services

Hudson Health Center, 3rd floor  

Counseling and Psychological Services provides professional and confidential counseling to students. Drop-in hours are 9:45am – 3:15pm, M-F.  

Student Legal Services

50 South Court Street, Suite D, Athens, OH

Student Legal Services provides Ohio University students with a wide range of legal services. 

Athens Community Resources

Food Resources

Athens Church of Christ Food Pantry

785 West Union Street Athens, OH 45701  
(740) 593-7414 Administration 

Athens County Food Pantry 

Distributed at:
Athens County Job and Family Services 
State Route 13 Millfield, OH 

Community Meals  

  • Monday 
    • First United Methodist Church | 12 p.m.  
      • 2 S. College St. Athens, OH | 740.593.3977  
  • Tuesday  
    • Athens Church of Christ | 5:30 p.m.  
      • 785 W. Union St. Athens, OH | 740.593.7414  
  • Wednesday  
    • United Campus Ministry (UCM) | 12 p.m.  
      • 18 N. College St. Athens, OH | 740.593.7301  
    • Friends and Neighbors Community Ctr. | 12 p.m.  
      • 24576 Parkersburg Rd. Coolville, OH | 740.667.0684  
  • Thursday  
    • United Campus Ministry (UCM) | 5:30 p.m.  
      • 18 N. College St. Athens, OH | 740.593.7301  
    • The HIVE | 6:30 p.m.  
      • 39 W. Columbus St. Nelsonville, OH  
    • Christ Community Wesleyan Church  
      • 6275 Kenney Memorial Ln. Albany, OH  
      • Every Third Thursday | 740.698.2292  
  • Friday  
    • Good Works | Call ahead for directions | 4:30 p.m.  
      • Location of meal changes seasonally | 740.594.3339  
    • The Plains United Methodist Church | 5:30 p.m.  
      • 3 N. Plains Rd. The Plains, OH  
Housing Resources 

Integrated Services

Offers support for homeless youth  

Sojourners Care Network

Offers coordinated access to homeless service for youth up to age 24  

Timothy House

Homeless shelter in Athens

PDF Guide to Assist Students Challenged by Basic Needs

View or download this guide in PDF form: Ohio University Guide to Assist Students Challenged by Basic Needs [PDF]