When you think about college, you often think of meeting new friends, attending sporting events, staying up late and having a good time—with plenty of studying. But you don’t think about the students who may not know where their next meal will come, and how that impacts their academic experience.
The DES Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) contracts with three regional food banks, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, United Food Bank and Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, to help food insecure Arizonans. St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and United Food Bank partner with community colleges to ensure that students receive the food they need to help them succeed.
“Society talks about child hunger and senior hunger often,” said Gloria Garcia-Hernandez, DES Coordinated Hunger Relief Program Manager. “But young adults in college—those who are struggling to put food on their table for themselves or their families—are considered less.”
All ten campuses of the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) participated in a nationwide Wisconsin HOPE Lab study to gain a better understanding of the depth of food and housing insecurity faced by students. The study found that 64% of MCCCD students experience some level of food insecurity, and the schools began to identify opportunities to address this gap.
In 2018, MCCCD received a $20,000 grant from Kroger Co. to purchase food, toiletries, shelves, storage bins, and other resources needed to operate campus food pantries. Eight of the ten Maricopa community colleges now provide a food pantry for students, with the two others in the process of planning and developing their pantries. This year, MCCCD added MCC Red Mountain and the Chandler-Gilbert Community College campuses. Red Mountain already launched its distribution. The Chandler-Gilbert Community College will begin in October.
“The partnership and collaboration between MCCCD, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and United Food Bank continues to ensure that the client remains the center of attention, “said Frank Migali, Deputy Assistant Director for DAAS.
In addition to Maricopa County Community Colleges, both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona have food pantries operating on their campuses independent of the regional food banks.
In August 2019, the DES Division of Benefits and Medical Eligibility launched a partnership with MCCCD to provide students on-campus support to apply for Nutrition, Cash and Medical Assistance
During the 2018-2019 school year, United Food Bank served 4,392 individuals at the Mesa Community College, Dobson Campus. When United Food Bank began its partnership with MCCCD, it provided food for 100 students; now it is providing food for more than 250 students each month.
Over the last six months, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance (SMFBA), through the South Mountain Community College, helped 2,993 students, and at Phoenix College, 6,094 students were helped. The Scottsdale Community College’s (SCC) partnership with SMFA began in February 2019 and has impacted 105 students.