Feeding hungry minds

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A program at a Massachusetts college is making strides to end hunger among students.

In March, MassBay Community College launched a pilot program aimed at helping hungry students. The MassBay Meal Scholarship Program awarded 29 students with meal cards, totaling $2,430 and 230 meals for the spring semester.

The program was expanded, and this semester, MassBay’s Student Nourishment and Care Committee (SNACC) awarded 48 students with meal cards totaling $15,000. Students can use the meal cards in cafeterias on the Wellesley and Framingham campuses.

“Students cannot focus on their studies if they are hungry, if their blood sugar is low, if they are worried about where their next meal is coming from, or if they are worried about whether they can feed their children,” MassBay President David Podell said in a release. “The SNACC committee is working to eliminate this barrier, because we know lack of basic needs can derail a student’s goals. This initiative is an important step to eliminate student hunger on our campuses.”

SNACC is a group of staff, faculty, students, and community volunteers who are dedicated to eliminating basic need barriers that are obstacles to student success.

Full- and part-time students can apply for the program through a Food Scholarship Application, requires students to submit a written personal statement on how this would support their academic goals. The application is reviewed by a blind SNACC sub-committee.

More than 250 applications were submitted in September 2019.

Lexi, a student who participates in the meal program explains, “meal assistance has always been part of my life due to my family’s financial status. Now that I am a college student, I’m even more independent with my expenses, which requires me to work more frequently. Between being dedicated to school and extracurricular activities, I’m limited in my ability to work longer hours so I can only cover certain expenses, including my car to be able to attend school. The income I make during the year makes it difficult to purchase balanced meals, affecting my physical health.”

Alicia, a single mother of three who also benefits from SNAP assistance, says she was “able to have lunch and not worry about taking from my kids’ food stamps. Before this program, I would just skip meals so I wouldn’t take away from their food money. While I was hungry, it was hard for me to think straight during classes. I am a huge promoter of this program to bring awareness to other students who might not know they are eligible for this program.”

There’s also data to back up the significance of the Meal Scholarship Program. In the student feedback form following the conclusion of spring 2019 semester, 63 percent of the recipients who responded said the “food through this program significantly impacted their academic performance.” In addition, 81 percent said the “food through this program had a significant impact on their ability to concentrate.”

“Higher education by its very nature is forward looking. At MassBay, we are looking to the future but we also see a very real problem in the lives of our students today. Hunger and anxiety about basic needs is eroding the future of many of our students and we must attack this problem directly,” MassBay Vice President of Student Development and Dean of Students Liz Blumberg said.  “All the donations we receive go directly toward helping students put aside food insecurity and focus, instead, on their intellectual, moral, and civic development. That’s the future.”

The MassBay Meal Scholarship Program currently is funded through donations.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.