Fighting hunger, one meal at a time

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

The One Solid Meal program at a Massachusetts college is helping end hunger, and keep students in class.

Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) in Massachusetts serves more than 14,000 students. More than half don’t have enough money for regular meals. In a recent study of hunger on college campuses, 56 percent of BHCC students indicated that they were moderately food insecure.  Nearly half have cut the size of their meals or skip meals because they don’t have enough money for food.

BHCC is bringing awareness to this issue with programming on student hunger and homelessness. The college also is actively trying to fight hunger with the One Solid Meal (OSM) program.  Funded by private donors, OSM began as a pilot during the spring 2016 semester to address hunger and food insecurity.

During that pilot phase, one cafeteria meal a day was provided to 30 students. Following the pilot phase, OSM provided $7 food vouchers which could be used in the college’s cafeteria, café and Culinary Arts dining room. The director of BHCC’s Single Stop office — which provides assistance with food, housing, tax filing and emergency assistance — referred students to the program.

The program doesn’t just keep students from going hungry – it keeps them in class. All but one of the 30 students who participated in the initial phases of the program completed the semester, and eight of the students have graduated.

“Success at community colleges is measured by retention and completion,” President Pam Eddinger said in a release. “Helping students access one solid meal on the days they come to class helps them stay on track to earn their degree and become part of the economic fabric of the city of Boston.”

The college just received a $14,000 Economic Mobility Grant from Bank of America Charitable Foundation to expand the number of participants in the OSM program.

Beyond OSM, a mobile food pantry visits the campus. And in May, BHCC hosted Voices of Hunger on Campus. The event gathered area colleges, field experts, local government officials and various partners and community organizations. It was aimed at developing strategies for addressing the growing hunger and homelessness issue on campuses.

How is your college fighting hunger and homelessness? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.