Sun, May 26, 2024

CSRA colleges offer options for hungry students

If you run a business, you offer a lunch break and probably take one yourself, even if it’s a working lunch with a client. Your future employees are in college and may not have the luxury of even eating lunch.

Aiken Technical College is establishing a way to help with those needs through a new student-centered food pantry thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of the CSRA. The ATC Foundation has received $13,500 to transform the College’s unused cafeteria space into the food pantry, add appropriate appliances and storage, and stock various items in addition to food received from Golden Harvest Food Bank, which is partnering with Aiken Tech for the food pantry, scheduled to open in August of 2024.

The Aiken Technical College Foundation has received a $13,500 grant from the Community Foundation of the CSRA to establish a new campus food pantry. Pictured (from left) Aiken Tech Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Melinda Rodgers, ATC Foundation Director, Beth LaClair, Ph.D., Golden Harvest Food Bank President and CEO, Amy Breitmann, Golden Harvest grant writer, Nathan Krupa, and Golden Harvest Vice President of Development, Nathan Folks.

Augusta Technical College is also addressing needs with the official opening of the Paws Pantry, in November. Augusta Tech secured the Liaison IMPACT Grant, providing essential funding for the Paws Pantry initiative. This project establishes a confidential space for students to request and receive both food and personal items. Augusta Tech is also collaborating with Golden Harvest Food Bank as a partner agency, to ensure sustained success and longevity for the Paws Pantry.

Aiken Tech will open a food pantry for students next year. Meanwhile, Augusta Tech opened the Paws Pantry in November. Both food pantries are supported by Golden Harvest Food Bank.

College students struggling with hunger has been a growing concern for some time. Over the last decade, the number of food pantries on campuses has swelled from 80 to around 800. Now, new data from the 2020 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study has provided the first nationally representative picture: more than one in five undergraduates experience food insecurity.

“We’re talking about four million people whose experience was invisible. It’s staggering in a nation this wealthy,” said Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, an independent consultant, senior fellow at Education Northwest, and founder of The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University.

The study, which featured responses from nearly 100,000 students, found that 23% of undergrads and 12% of grad students experience food insecurity, rates higher than those among the general public. The study also found that 8% of undergraduates and 5% of grad students experience homelessness.

“The Aiken Tech Foundation is grateful for the Community Foundation’s support as it shows a commitment to meeting students’ basic needs so that they can be successful in the classroom and successfully enter the regional workforce,” said ATC Foundation Director, Beth LaClair, Ph.D.

The College has had a Blessing Box on its campus since 2019 and has seen increased usage, particularly in recent years. The addition of the food pantry will extend access to nutritious, essential food items, said Aiken Tech Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Melinda Rodgers.

“With an estimated one in three students experiencing food insecurity nationwide, according to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, the Aiken Tech food pantry will serve as a crucial resource to ensure that no student goes hungry while pursuing their education,” said Rodgers. “It is another way that ATC can help students, especially those who are low-income, complete their program of study and thus rise out of situational and/or generational poverty, which is central to our mission of educational and workforce development.”

Kudos to Aiken Tech and Augusta Tech and their supporters for keeping the future workforce fed in trying times.

Editor’s Note:
Mitzi Oxford is a veteran broadcaster and features writer who also worked at the same television station in Columbus, Georgia as Augusta’s Brad Means! If you have a South Carolina story idea for Mitzi, please email her at mitzioxfordcreative@gmail.com.

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