Trident Tech’s Grocery Vault helping to address hunger on campus

By Hanna Raskin

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“The report surveyed more than 33,000 students at 70 two-year institutions in 24 states and found that two-thirds struggle with food insecurity (and) one-third are regularly hungry.”
— Inside HigherEd, Mar. 15, 2017

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“We can talk about reforming developmental education until we’re blue in the face … but if we still have students who are hungry or housing insecure, you’re still going to have a completion issue,” the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success’ Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield told Inside HigherEd upon learning of the “Hungry and Homeless in College” report.

Indeed, the challenges of managing basic needs while enrolled in community college are so severe that experts say previous studies underestimated the extent of food insecurity on campus because so many struggling students drop out soon after the semester’s start. By conducting its study earlier in the school year, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab and the Association of Community College Trustees were able to establish that hunger is a pressing problem at both urban and rural institutions.

More than 7 million Americans attend community college; about 4.5 million of them are pursuing degrees or certificates on a part-time basis. Seventy-three percent of those students also hold down paid jobs, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

The study’s authors say their findings show that working students receiving financial aid still can’t afford groceries, effectively restricting their entry into the middle class.

Community colleges are experimenting with solutions, including on-campus food banks and service centers set up to process applications for public benefits. Bunker Hill Community College in Boston is now testing a cafeteria voucher system, although the school’s president acknowledges students need a free lunch program.

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Trident Tech hasn’t tallied up how many of its students are food insecure, but three out of every four students receive financial aid. “We do know that many of our students struggle with the basics, like food, housing, transportation, child care,” spokesman David Hansen says.

In response, the school’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter last summer launched The Grocery Vault on Trident’s North Charleston campus. Housed in a converted classroom, the Grocery Vault is a food pantry stocked with items collected in donation bins around campus and purchased by Phi Theta Kappa. Last month, the group received the Distinguished College Project award at Phi Theta Kappa’s international convention for its work.

Any student or employee with a valid Trident Tech identification card can shop at The Grocery Vault, located in Room 140 of Building 100. The pantry is open Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. and Fridays from noon-2 p.m.

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