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Community College Launches Co-OP to Eliminate Food Insecurity

A Virginia-based community college has announced the launch of a cooperative that will address concerns of food insecurity among students.

The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, in partnership with Kroger and Kraft Heinz, two food companies, launched a co-op that will offer high-quality, healthy foods to students for free.

The initiative is part of Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Plan which has donated shelving, reusable cinch sack food bags and reusable water bottles. Both the companies have donated an initial gift of $10,000 for the initiative.

“People don’t always consider college students when thinking of groups who face hunger, but many of these students are food insecure,” Kroger executive David Dantzler said. “Establishing new partnerships and finding creative ways to solve hunger in the community is the spirit of our Zero Hunger Zero Waste commitment.”

Nationally, approximately half of two-year and four-year students are food insecure. A similar report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 30 percent of college students today are food insecure.

The Co-Op will be managed through Virginia Westerns student services, operating on an honor system with students logging their ID numbers to enter the space.

A recent study by the University of Maryland-College Park scholar pointed that lack of access to a reliable supply of nutritious food can make a student fail assignments and exams, withdraw from classes or the university, score lower grade points and even stay away from such important career opportunities as internships.

“The reality is, despite the great value of our education, it is estimated that as many as 50 percent of Virginia’s community college students suffer from food insecurity,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “That means instead of concentrating on their studies, these students are focused on a grumbling stomach or how they can secure their family’s next meal.

Last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has moved a bicameral College Student Hunger Act of 2019 that would make students who receive pell grants and independent students eligible to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

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