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Food for Thought
MassBay Community College’s Student Development, Student Government Association and the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences recently held a student essay contest around hunger issues. The two winners of the student contest are Phu Nguyen of Canton and Kelly Drescher Johnson of Ashland. They will both join two members of the Student Development team in attending the National Convening on College Food and Housing Insecurity Conference in Philadelphia on October 23rd and 24th. The winning students will travel and participate in the conference free of charge and learn more about efforts to end hunger and homelessness among college students nationwide.
The two day conference, led by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, will discuss how to reduce food and housing insecurity, how to assist students with food resources on-campus, broadening student access to food stamps, how to operate an effective campus food pantry, how to work with administrator to implement campus wide changes and more. Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago will also be in attendance and will be participating in a panel discussion, “Creating Systemic Change in Higher Education”.
"Campus leaders at MassBay Community College were among the first in our state to address the issue of food and housing insecurity head-on," said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. "Therefore it’s not a surprise to see that MassBay students are stepping forward with their own ideas for how to help their peers. I applaud their engagement and look forward to meeting them at next month's convening in Philadelphia."
There were seventeen MassBay students who participated in the week long essay contest and many great implementation ideas were shared which would help assist students who struggle with food security. Some of the ideas generated from the winning essays include: creating on campus study sessions incorporating food at these events to create an academic socialization activity, offer workshops on cooking, student-led/short-term food pantry, early morning and late night free snack events, and more. These and other ideas will be brought to the conference and to a MassBay working group assigned to this topic to see if and how these ideas can be implemented at the College.
“Attending this conference is a humbling honor,” said Drescher Johnson. “I hope to learn more about the experiences and struggles students across the country are facing so that we can be united in a voice for change. Closer to home, I look forward to finding ways the Mass Bay community can help each other. No one should ever feel alone in any struggle, and I am humbled to represent the strength of resolve and commitment Mass Bay has put forth to the safety and security of its community members.”
“It's a privilege to be able to attend the conference on food and housing insecurity,” said Nguyen. “It is troubling to know that about half of our student body is reportedly suffering from the lack of basic necessities that are fundamental to their long term development and success, and thereby, the success of the community at large. What's more stunning is the fact that on the surface we seem to be living in a society that has an abundance of resources, there are no shortage of restaurants, grocery stores are filled with foods, and housing development can be seen everywhere. There seems to be a disconnect between the reality for those who have access and those who do not. I hope ideas being shared at this conference will help bridge the gaps between these two realities.”
During the Spring 2017 semester, MassBay’s Student Development Office and Institutional Research administered an on-line survey of currently enrolled students to inquire about and addressing food insecurity among our student population. The study revealed over half of the 308 students who responded, 52%, were found to have “low” or “very low” food security issues, which is comparable to a national study of community college students conducted by The Wisconsin Hope Lab called “Hunger and Homelessness in College”. The national study and the results of the MassBay Food Insecurity study prompted MassBay to participate in the up-coming conference and create the essay contest to find students that would benefit the sharing of ideas and bringing those ideas back to MassBay for implementation.
“We were excited to have so many students step forward and contribute to this essay contest,” said Massbay Vice President of Student Development and Dean of Students Dr. Liz Blumberg. “Our students are concerned about food insecurity and they are actively trying to combat it. Our staff and our two student winners - Phu Nguyen and Kelly Drescher Johnson will get to add their voices and ideas to the conference in Philadelphia. We look forward to hearing all the new ideas and effective practices they’ll bring back to MassBay.”
MassBay also supports the following food security initiatives;
- A partnership with The Greater Boston Food Bank to host a monthly mobile market food pantry with free fresh fruits and vegetables. This farmer’s market style food distribution is located on the Wellesley Hills campus, and students on the Ashland and Framingham campuses can pre-register and the food will be brought to those campuses. To-date this has already benefitted more than 2,648 students, faculty and staff.
- Snack bins have been placed in Student Development, Athletics, Advising and the Office of Financial Aid on the Wellesley Hills campus, offering free, sustainable snack options available to all students. The snack bins are also in Advising and Student Development on the Framingham campus.
- The MassBay Foundation has started a Student Hunger Assistance Fund, where individuals can make a donation and their contribution will go directly to the helping students have access to food.
For more information on food resources at MassBay Community College; www.MassBay.edu/foodresources.
For more information on the National Convening on College Food and Housing Insecurity conference; http://wihopelab.com/events/realcollege.html.