PARIS — Amandine Chéreau hurried from her cramped student apartment in suburban Paris to catch a train for an hourlong trip into the city. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, she said, as she headed for a student-run food bank near the Bastille, where she joined a snaking line with 500 young people waiting for handouts.
Ms. Chéreau, 19, a university student, ran out of savings in September after the pandemic ended the babysitting and restaurant jobs she had relied on. By October, she had resorted to eating one meal a day, and said she had lost 20 pounds.
“I have no money for food,” said Ms. Chéreau, whose father helps pay her tuition and rent, but couldn’t send more after he was laid off from his job of 20 years in August. “It’s frightening,” she added, as students around her reached for vegetables, pasta and milk. “And it’s all happening so fast.”
As the pandemic begins its second year, humanitarian organizations in Europe are warning of an alarming rise in food insecurity among young people, following a steady stream of campus closings, job cuts and layoffs in their families. A growing share are facing hunger and mounting financial and psychological strain, deepening disparities for the most vulnerable populations.
intensifying crisis over how to meet their basic dietary needs. As the global economy struggles to rebound from the worst recession since World War II, hunger is on the rise.
In the United States, nearly one in eight households doesn’t have enough to eat. People in already food-starved countries face a greater crisis, with food insecurity in the developing world expected to nearly double to 265 million people, according to the United Nations World Food Program.
In France, Europe’s second-largest economy, half of young adults now have limited or uncertain access to food. Nearly a quarter are routinely skipping at least one meal a day, according to le Cercle des Économistes, a French economic think tank that advises the government.
acknowledged a growing crisis after undergraduate and graduate students demonstrated in cities across France, where higher education is seen as a right and the state finances most costs. He announced a rapid relief plan, including 1-euro meals daily at university cafeterias, psychological support and a review of financial aid for those facing a “lasting and notable decline in family income.”
Linkee, a nationwide food bank that set up new services dedicated to students who cannot get enough food. “Students have become the new face of this precariousness,” he said.
Food insecurity among students was not uncommon before the pandemic. But the problem has ballooned since European countries imposed national lockdowns last spring to contain the coronavirus.
Aid organizations that mainly fed refugees, the homeless and people below the poverty line have refocused operations to also meet a surge in demand among youth. At the Restos du Coeur, one of France’s largest food banks, with 1,900 outlets, the number of young adults under 25 lining up for meals has risen to become nearly 40 percent of the total.
Over eight million people in France visited a food bank last year, compared with 5.5 million in 2019. Food aid demand across Europe has surged by 30 percent, according to the European Food Banks Federation.
While the government subsidizes campus meals, it doesn’t provide food pantries. As the cost of staying fed grows insurmountable for students with little or no income, university administrators have turned to aid groups for help fighting hunger.
The pandemic has wiped out jobs in restaurants, tourism and other hard-hit sectors that were once easily accessible to young people. Two-thirds have lost work that helped them make ends meet, according to the National Observatory of Student Life.