MANSFIELD, Pa. – In an effort to address student hunger on campus, Commonwealth University received the Pennsylvania Hunger-Free Campus+ designation from the PA Department of Education. This designation also qualified CU to apply for grant opportunities, resulting in a $60K grant awarded to the university to address food insecurity on its campuses at Mansfield, Lock Haven and Bloomsburg. This was the highest amount – given to five of the 28 colleges and universities that received the grant in the 2022-23 academic year.
Former Gov. Tom Wolf successfully advocated for $1 million to support postsecondary institutions’ efforts to address student hunger needs on campus. This effort resulted in the institutions being invited to apply for the PA Hunger-Free Campus or Campus+ designation to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the hunger needs and food insecurity for college students and diminishing hunger as a barrier to learning.
Dr. Tiffany Welch, associate professor of social work at Mansfield, wrote the grant and Dr. Amy Downes, associate vice president for student success and campus life at Lock Haven and director of the Haven Cupboard food pantry, assisted her efforts.
“I was so excited to learn that we were being awarded this grant because of the huge impact I know it will have in assisting our learners with meeting their basic needs so they can stress less and focus more on their academics, which is what all learners deserve,” Welch said.
“No individual should have to go without food, ever,” she added. “I am grateful that Commonwealth University recognizes the negative impact that food insecurity can have on learners, and is committed to doing all we can to address this ever-increasing issue in higher education.”
“I want to thank both Drs. Welch and Downes for their dedicated efforts in obtaining this grant to help fight hunger on our campuses,” said Dr. Bashar Hanna, president of Commonwealth University. “Too often we hear stories about students facing food insecurity. This grant will go a long way in ensuring our students have access to healthy food options.”
The grant will help the three campuses with their objectives of expanding pantry services with food purchases and refrigeration and upgrades to their existing facilities. They also plan to create a more standard system for food delivery across all campuses and supply sharing.
In addition, Welch and Downes hope to strengthen oversight by establishing a Basic Needs Task Force comprised of individuals from all three campuses; explore community partnerships and alliances; become a COMPASS partner and connect learners to eligible services; and increase and improve communication of their services to CU students.
They also hope to partner with the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University’s #Real College Survey – an initiative to help ensure students can meet basic needs at colleges and institutions around the country.
“This grant will allow us to expand services and programs to better serve our students who are facing food insecurity and hunger,” Downes said. “We want our students to have access to healthy, nutritious food so that they can focus on their learning and not be stressed about where their next meal is coming from.”