Title media by
Garrett Diegnan

Content Warning: discussion of eating disorders

Makaila Cerrone knows hunger like a violent friend. Hunger haunted her childhood home whenever their wallets ran dry; for she and her single mother, their pockets were never full. The ghostly echoes of their lonely home reminded Makaila of her stomach: anguished, groaning, and empty. Though she escaped food insecurity at 10 after her mother remarried, hunger haunted Makaila into high school. 

At 16, Makaila began to savor the bittersweet ache of emptiness. Diet culture, social media, and peer pressure poisoned her mind with disordered eating. Food, something she and her mother once coveted, became shameful and unappetizing. “I just wanted control,” she said.

Makaila was enrolled into an eating disorder recovery program in the summer before her first year at Northeastern. When she started university, she had access to all of its dining halls. Finally, the calculator in Makaila’s head began to quiet. She was ready to make a full recovery.

Makaila’s first meal plan was covered by financial aid, as first years are required to be on a university meal plan. However, in her second year, Makaila lost all access to Northeastern’s dining halls because she could not pay for a plan by herself. Unable to afford food, she would spend every waking hour planning how she could eat for free. In class, at her job, and at club meetings, Makaila was never fully there. “I was too busy thinking about how I was going to eat that day,”  she said. Food insecurity manifests past the exhaustion of hunger—the shame of being unable to pay for food at friendly outings isolates countless students. “It was embarrassing….and made me feel different from other students,” she said. 

Makaila would attend club meetings for their complimentary free meals and scout out food pantries near campus. Though she is now an active club member of Northeastern Mutual Aid, Makaila initially began volunteering at food pantries because of their promise of free food.

Sometimes, Makaila would opt to not eat at all. With no food nor desire to eat, she fell into old habits. In her third year at Northeastern, Makaila recommitted to an eating disorder recovery program.

“My eating disorder played into [my food insecurity] so well because I couldn't afford the food anyway. So, I thought, ‘Perfect, just don't eat.'...It was very harmful because having the food you need is inherent to recovery.” she said.

(Burning Rose Photo: Garrett Diegnan)

Although Makaila has since fully recovered, Northeastern’s negligence undeniably prolonged her eating disorder. Makaila’s path to recovery likely would have been easier if Northeastern had provided her with the proper support to fight her food insecurity in her second and third years. The only campus resource she could turn to was WeCare, a catch-all institution that assists students through issues that impede their academic performance. WeCare manages an incredibly broad spectrum of problems, which ranges from personal, medical and financial dilemmas. The program is understaffed and underfunded, and cannot possibly solve on-campus food insecurity by itself.

Makaila is one of the thousands of students who have suffered from food insecurity at Northeastern. According to a recent survey from the Northeastern Student Government Association (SGA), 25% of students struggle with food insecurity sometime during their stay at the university; for Northeastern dining workers, the number skyrockets to 71%. 

Every Wednesday, Makaila and other Northeastern Mutual Aid volunteers serve 100 to 350 students and food workers in their weekly food pantries. Of the attendees, an estimated 75% of them are students and workers of color. Despite Mutual Aid’s bleak statistics, their food pantries likely underestimate on-campus food insecurity. Countless food insecure students and dining workers remain unaware of such service or are too ashamed to partake in them. 

Makaila is no longer haunted by hunger. She was able to recover from her eating disorder and rise above food insecurity through food stamps, food pantries, and her own income, all by herself. But it wasn’t easy. By sharing her story and doing volunteer work, Makaila hopes to help those suffering from food insecurity and disordered eating feel less isolated in their experiences.

“You are not alone… You may think that you are, but you're only seeing the wealth of this, and every, predominantly white and elite institution. There are so many students at Northeastern who are just like me, and that’s very comforting to know.”

Northeastern makes $1.5 billion annually: It can afford to feed all of its staff and students, but it chooses not to. As long as the university continues to opt for profit over the wellbeing of its students, we will continue to go hungry. How much longer will we fail to hold Northeastern accountable for its starving staff and students?