How French Youth influences national policies to fight student poverty
Establishing the rise of student poverty in the 2010s in France, FAGE (the leading French National Student Union) took action in 2012 and opened with some local federations of student associations, and social grocery stores named AGORAé in the cities of Nice and Lyon. Since then, nearly 40 of them opened in metropolitan France and are projected to be opened its overseas dependencies to fight against food insecurity and social deprivation in Higher Education Institutions.
The place of student associations in the fight against student poverty in France isn’t new. In 1927, l’AFGES (Federation of Student Associations of Strasbourg and the surrounding area) opened the first University Canteen – La Galia, which aims at providing affordable and qualitative meals for all students. This first action was followed by the opening of the first Student Residence by l’AFGES, which aimed at providing shelter to the poorest students. Those initiatives were made possible by the very specific context of the region at this moment – which used to be German and was receiving tons of public funds to be re-Francized.
All those student-led actions pushed French government to claim those facilities and to take action themselves by creating the CNOUS (national scale) and the CROUSs (regional scale) institutions that nowadays oversee the grant system, student feeding and housing as well as many other missions.
But the rise of student count in higher education institutions and the diversification of student profiles in France made the CROUS obsoletes for helping a lot of students. Student associations are, for some of them, the last barrier before finding radical or tragic ways of ending their problems. For this reason, student associations are overseeing AGORAés , social grocery stores conceived to create social mix and diversity as well as being an open door for any student who needs warmth. Many other solidarity and socially aimed projects are held by student volunteers.
But student actions are palliative and cannot be the only solutions brought to a distressed generation of future citizens. FAGE and its local federations strongly advocate for structural reform of the grant system to offer every student in France better living and studying conditions. Student volunteers are strongly mobilised to find a collective solution to the endemic issue of student poverty. We cannot keep doing away with investing in our youth.