Tidewater Community College and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore are new partners in a five-year initiative to eliminate the food insecurity that impedes many TCC students from completing their higher education.
The Campus-Based Pantry and Food Scholarship Program will begin at TCC this fall with a mobile pantry on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses.
The Foodbank will provide the food needed to implement the program and benefit from a $250,000 gift toward that effort from TowneBank. The donation was presented during a food insecurity awareness event at the Slover Library in Norfolk.
“The Foodbank’s partnership with Tidewater Community College is quite unique,” said John Baiocco, president of TowneBank Norfolk. “It’s actually bringing together the expertise of the Foodbank and addressing a need that will help the community and the students at TCC.”
Mobile Pantry Program distributions will take place once a month at each campus and will consist of produce, donated product such as bread and lean protein, and some shelf-stable items.
The Foodbank will provide food for up to 150 households at each distribution. Each household will receive items to feed a family of four.
In 2020, TCC will establish a campus pantry available to all students. An additional program will benefit a specific group of students, selected by TCC, who are identified as food-insecure. The food scholarship program will provide qualifying students with a consistent source of food as long as they continue to pursue their TCC degree or certificate. The Foodbank Mobile Pantry will continue to be available on one campus.
In 2021 a second onsite pantry will open at a TCC campus. In years four and five, the program will either expand to the Virginia Beach and/or Chesapeake campuses or expand participation in the scholarship program on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses.
“I’m seeing an increase in poverty, homelessness and hunger among our students,” said Michelle Woodhouse, provost of the Portsmouth Campus. “It’s rampant. We wanted to do something to help. This is one avenue we can combat to keep students from dropping out.”
According to Wisconsin HOPE Lab, whose recent survey gleaned insights from 43,000 students at 66 two-year and four-year colleges in 20 states, student hunger is a major challenge. The organization reported that 42% of community college students experience food insecurity, meaning they were unsure about the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the ability to acquire such foods in a socially acceptable manner.
Last fall, Glenn Dubois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, urged community college leaders to address the problem. More than half of the 23 colleges are operating some form of a food pantry.
“For me, this is a game-changer,” said Emanuel Chestnut, interim provost on the Norfolk Campus. “So many of our students are suffering in silence and struggling to meet their most basic needs. This is about the whole person and finding every way to support our students so they can go out and be successful and then pay it forward.”
“We’re grateful to the Foodbank and TowneBank for supporting this initiative,” Chestnut said. “We are beyond excited to get things moving.”