MILLERSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — The Wolf administration announced a new initiative to fight hunger on college campuses on Thursday.
The Hunger-Free Campus initiative is aimed at helping students at risk of hunger access free and healthy food on campuses across the state. It will also help schools set up and expand campus food pantries.
The Wolf administration says food challenges many students faced in grade school follow them into college and could become more challenging as students deal with housing, books, and other costs.
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“We know that students need access to healthy food to stay focused, learn, grow, and thrive. And yet, many postsecondary students face financial barriers to filling their most basic needs,” said Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty in a press release. “The Hunger-Free Campus Initiative empowers Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to combat hunger on their campuses and provide the resources that students need to continue their education and go on to obtain family-sustaining, meaningful careers.”
National studies estimate that 1 in 3 college students are food insecure, and roughly 52% of students who faced food or housing insecurity in 2020 did not apply for support because they didn’t know how.
Hagarty and First Lady Frances Wolf visited Millersville Univerity on Thursday and toured the Campus Cupboard, a food pantry that serves Millersville students.
“Food insecurity is a threat to student success on college campuses here in Pennsylvania and across the U.S.,” said Dr. Daniel A. Wubah, president of Millersville University, in the release. “It has the potential to impact academics, wellness, and behavior which are factors that have bearing on student retention and graduation rates. At Millersville University we have a range of programs to help ensure our students don’t go hungry. For instance, Share Meals is a free app that MU students can use to geolocate free meals at MU. And, since 2012 we have worked with Campus Cupboard to provide a food pantry for our students.”
The Hunger-Free Campus and Hunger-Free Campus+ initiatives aim to create a coalition of institutions of higher education focused on combatting hunger and addressing other basic needs of their students. The schools also provide opportunities for student hunger activists to connect, provide resources and strategies for campuses, and support opportunities to apply for grants to help address food insecurity, according to a press release.
The latest state budget includes a $1 million investment to begin the Hunger-Free Campus grant program to help schools improve food pantries, increase SNAP outreach, improve data gathering, and more to help meet students’ nutritional needs, the release explains.
Schools must obtain a Hunger-Free Campus designation to apply for grant funding, the press release states. A request for applications for grant funds will be released in the fall.