Jan. 14, 2014, Blue Bell/Pottstown, Pa.— According to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, 11 percent of all Montgomery County residents and 14 percent of the County’s children currently experience food insecurity – defined as “lack of access to enough food for an active healthy lifestyle.”
State and federal initiatives, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provide vital support to children and families during times of need. However, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), food insecurity is a growing concern among the nation’s college students, many of whom do not qualify for traditional safety net programs.
Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is among a growing group of colleges and universities across the country that is seeing increase in food insecurity among its students. That’s why, this spring, MCCC is piloting a new food pantry program for students enrolled at its campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, Pa.
Called the Stock Up For Success Program (SUP), students can pick up donated, non-perishable breakfast, lunch and snack items from designated individuals in MCCC’s Students Success Centers. The food is kept in locked cabinets, and the inventory is managed by the College’s Office of Student Leadership and Involvement.
“We want students to feel comfortable using the program, so the whole thing is very discreet,” explained Jenna Klaus, assistant director of civic and community engagement and SUP coordinator. “Students come into the Student Success Center, ask to see a SUP team member, and receive their food. Barnes & Noble [campus bookstore] donated a full box of plastic bags, so students won’t have to feel awkward about walking out with food.”
According to Klaus, the SUP initiative came out of collaborative discussions last summer between faculty and staff from some of the College’s access and success initiatives, including Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS), Gateway to College, Minority Student Mentoring Initiative, and Student Support and Referral Team (SSRT).
“We know there is a growing number of students who need support for breakfast and lunch, but we’re not sure of the scale,” explained Klaus, noting that some four-year institutions provide full-scale food pantries on their campuses. “We’ll track numbers throughout the spring semester and use that data to help us determine our next steps.”
Klaus and the SUP team began soliciting donations of food and money from the College community in early November during a four-week Stock Up for Success campaign. That effort has already yielded 12 boxes of food and $420 – a good start to meet demand early in the spring 2014 semester, which started Jan. 13.
MCCC also welcomes support from members of the community. Non-perishable food donations -- including microwavable lunches (macaroni and cheese, Chef Boyardee, Bowl Appetit!), To-Go Cups (peanut butter, tuna) mini cereal boxes, granola, Pop Tarts, instant oatmeal cups, trail mix, fruit cups, mini raisin boxes, juice boxes and mini bottles of water – can be brought to MCCC’s Student Leadership and Involvement Offices, located in College Hall 103 at the Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, and in South Hall 106 at the West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown.
Monetary donations can also be made to the Stock Up For Success Program through the College’s Foundation. Visit mc3.edu/giving, select “Give Now” and choose “Stock Up Success Food Pantry” from the drop down menu. Donations by check should be made out to “MCCC Foundation” with “Stock Up for Success” written in the memo line and mailed to 340 DeKalb Pike, East House, Blue Bell, PA 19422.