Hunger-Free Campus Initiative Helps College Students Access Free Nutritious Food Options

First Lady Frances Wolf and Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty today joined Millersville University students, faculty and partners to announce the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative to help students at risk of hunger access healthy food and Free on Pennsylvania college campuses.

“Hunger is a devastating reality that affects many Pennsylvania post-secondary students as they strive to improve their education, and today I am proud to say that we here in Pennsylvania refuse to accept it,” said First Lady Wolf. “I invite all Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to apply for Hunger-Free Campus designation and join with their dedicated colleagues to ensure our students have access to the tools they need to succeed, especially nutritious food.”

The Hunger-Free Campus Initiative and the Hunger-Free Campus+ Initiative help build a coalition of Pennsylvania’s Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) focused on addressing hunger and other basic needs of their students, creating opportunities for connection between advocates of the student hunger, providing resources and strategies for campuses and support opportunities to apply for grants related to addressing food insecurity.

“We know that students need access to healthy foods to stay focused, learn, grow and thrive. And yet, many post-secondary students face financial barriers to meeting their most basic needs,” Hagarty said. “The Hunger-Free Campus Initiative empowers Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to combat hunger on their campuses and provide the resources students need to continue their education and pursue meaningful, family-supporting careers.”

Pennsylvania higher education institutions that are taking steps to address student hunger can apply for Pennsylvania Hunger-Free Campus designation. Institutions receiving this designation will receive a certificate of recognition from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, receive public recognition through placement on the PA Hunger-Free Campus website, be able to use the PA Hunger-Free Campus logo on materials to indicate the conscience of the institution. and focus on solving student hunger, and be prepared for future grant opportunities.

“Food insecurity is a threat to student success on college campuses here in Pennsylvania and across the United States,” said Dr. Daniel A. Wubah, president of Millersville University. “It has the potential to impact academics, well-being and behavior, which are factors that influence student retention and graduation rates. At Millersville University we have a variety of programs to help ensure our students don’t go hungry. For example, Share Meals is a free app that MU students can use to geolocate free meals at MU. And, since 2012, we have worked with Campus Cupboard to provide a food pantry for our students.”

The 2022-23 state budget included a $1 million investment to start the Hunger-Free Campus grant program, which would help schools improve food pantries, increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach, improve collecting data and participating in other initiatives that help meet the nutritional needs of students. This investment, along with budget increases for the post-secondary sector, will help reduce barriers to achieving college and career goals.

Schools must obtain a Hunger-Free Campus designation to apply for grant funds, and an Application for Applications for Grant Funds will be published this fall.

An estimated 36% of students know someone who dropped out of college due to food insecurity during the pandemic, and about 52% of students who faced food or housing insecurity in 2020 did not apply for support because they did not know how to apply .

A 2018 report published by the Federal Government Accountability Office found that about half of all college students in 2016 were financially independent, and the average age of a college student today is 25. About 22 percent of all college students that year had their own dependent children, and 14 percent were single parents.

Additionally, many college students have relied on free or reduced-price meals throughout their education. Those programs don’t exist for college students, even though the food challenges they had in elementary school may follow them into the next phase of their lives and may become even more challenging as they juggle new financial responsibilities like housing, books and other costs.

Since 2019, First Lady Wolf has highlighted the efforts of higher education professionals, students, and hunger advocates addressing hunger and food insecurity on college campuses.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, visit the Department of Education’s website. Follow PDE on Facebook, TwitterYouTube or Pinterest.

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