By Beth Brown
It’s hard to concentrate in class, or to focus on your studies when you’re hungry and worried about where you’ll get your next meal. In extreme cases, food insecurity can force students to take time off from school or abandon their education entirely.
Of the food insecure students surveyed for the report Hunger on Campus: The Challenge of Food Insecurity for College Students, 32 percent believed that hunger had a direct impact on their education. When asked about the impact caused by their food insecurity, 55 percent reported that these problems caused them to not buy a required textbook, 53 percent reported missing a class, and 25 percent reported dropping a class.
Last April, 2019, the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation announced a $100,000 grant to the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE). This gift was specifically earmarked to improve emergency food services at community colleges in Virginia’s Rural Horseshoe Region.
Among the results from the Anthem Foundation grant:
• Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC): BRCC was able to implement a Lunch2Go program designed and operated by student volunteers, and grocery gift cards were purchased using Anthem funds.
• Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (DSLCC): DSLCC stocked the campus food pantries with a “Miles for Meals” campaign. This campaign resulted in over 200 bags of food for the pantry.
• Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC): ESCC launched a Lunch & Learn program provides a hot meal along with an informational speaker and resources such as financial literacy, transfer/advising, financial aid, health and wellness.
• Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC): Anthem Foundation funds were used to expand the food pantry to a second campus in Fauquier County, appropriately named the “Success Station.”
New food pantries and other creative resources to battle food insecurity have been established at other Rural Horseshoe schools including Danville Community College, Rappahannock Community College, and Virginia Highlands Community College thanks to support from the Anthem Foundation.
VCCS colleges and supporters elsewhere also have stepped up their efforts to help students who face hunger issues.
Thanks to a $250,000 gift from TowneBank Norfolk, Tidewater Community College and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore launched a five-year initiative to reduce food insecurity on campus.
At Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, gifts from local Kroger stores and Kraft Heinz foods supported a major expansion of VWCC’s food pantry for students.
The newly dubbed “Virginia Western Student Co-Op fueled by Kroger” offers students consistent access to high-quality, healthy foods at no cost.
The challenge is ongoing. You can learn more here or check with your local college.
Beth Brown is marketing and public relations specialist at the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education
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