Berkshire Community College (BCC), in partnership with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), has been awarded a multi-year Community College Campus Hunger Program Grant in the amount of $180,000. Funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and administered through the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the grant award will provide program support through June 30, 2024.
The grant is designed to increase access to academic opportunities for students of color and students experiencing food insecurity. The award letter commends BCC for its "commitment to transform higher education institutional cultures to center equity-minded support."
Our top priority at BCC is offering a quality education that is accessible to all. But access goes beyond the classroom — we must do everything we can to ensure the basic needs of our students are met. Food insecurity disproportionately impacts students of color and low-income students. This generous grant allows us to address the serious issue of hunger head-on by identifying need, taking active steps to alleviate the problem and allowing our students to thrive without the added pressures of food insecurity.
With grant funding, BCC and MCLA plan to hire a full-time Student Services Navigator, a shared position created to make each college"s food pantry and food security programming fully sustainable. Daily operations will be run by student advocates, with administrative oversight. A total of approximately 600 students at BCC and MCLA will be served annually.
Key activities of the grant project will include:
- The creation of annual programming such as cooking and nutrition classes with regional partners
- Financial literacy workshops with local banks and fuel assistance information
- Annual professional development training for faculty and staff on how to address signs of food or housing insecurity and what resources are available
- Broadening and strengthening community relationships with key non-profits throughout Berkshire County focused on basic needs and food insecurity
- The purchase of additional meal swipes and frozen meals from MCLA"s food service provider, Aramark, and BCC"s food service provider Epicurean, that would allow students who are unable to afford a college meal plan to access food from the cafeteria
- An expansion of services to include taxi and transportation vouchers for trips to the supermarket or local farmers" markets
"Food insecurity makes it more difficult for students to complete courses, stay enrolled and ultimately graduate. When a student is choosing between working on their classes or figuring out how to feed their family or themselves, food is always going to come first," said Adam Klepetar, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. "Funding for this project will have a significant impact on the student populations at BCC and MCLA, particularly in helping to close the gaps in outcome disparities."
Dean of Students Celia Norcross said, "We are excited about this advanced partnership with our colleagues at MCLA, once again showcasing how our colleges keep our students at the center of all we do. Their education is important to us, and having them succeed in and out of the classroom with access to basic needs is vital."