Former Governor Tom Wolf and former First Lady Frances Wolf announced last week that $1 million in PA Hunger-Free Campus grants have been awarded to 28 institutions of higher education (IHE) and private licensed schools, including Kutztown University, to combat student hunger across the commonwealth.
Kutztown University was awarded a $60,000 grant with the purpose of addressing food insecurity on campus, including expanding access to food options, creating awareness initiatives and upgrading facilities.
“With more than a third of students knowing someone who dropped out of college due to food insecurity during the pandemic, hunger affects far too many postsecondary students across the nation,” said Gov. Wolf. “The PA Hunger-Free Campus designation and grant program gives Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities the tools they need to combat hunger on their campuses and provide students with access to healthy food so they can stay focused, learn, and grow.”
The 28 institutions represent the first cohort of awardees since the program’s creation earlier this year.
“Hunger should never be what holds someone back from taking steps to invest in their future – and the future of Pennsylvania. From high school graduates pursuing career pathways to adults making career changes and adapting to shifts in workforce needs, students deserve proper support in achieving their higher education goals,” said First Lady Wolf. “I’m proud that the Hunger-Free Campus program can offer that support and look forward to seeing the innovative ways that schools address food insecurity on their campuses.”
Last summer, former First Lady Wolf and Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty unveiled the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative, featuring the PA Hunger-Free Campus and PA Hunger-Free Campus+ designations, to build a coalition of Pennsylvania institutions of IHEs focused on addressing hunger and other basic needs for their students, creating opportunities for connection among student hunger advocates, providing resources and strategies for campuses, and supporting opportunities to apply for grants related to addressing food insecurity.
At KU, the Bear Essentials Pantry, the on-campus food pantry, located in the McFarland Student Union and ran by the Office of Student Involvement, provides non-perishable food items to students in need. The university also has a partnership with Friend, Inc., a local non-profit agency serving Northeastern Berks County, which provides a satellite food pantry adjacent to campus and critical support services to students in need.
The university is extremely proactive in brokering students with information regarding food insecurity and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Through the partnership with Friend, Inc., the university provides students with assistance in completing the SNAP application. Additionally, KU maintains two student programs for the provision of help related to their basic needs. The Student Assistance Program offers students information, guidance and referrals in the areas that may impact students’ academic and personal success. The second program, the KU Care team, includes university administrators and staff and connects students who face financial emergencies, such as the inability to pay for housing or basic necessities to funding and other resources.
KU’ meal programs provide students with significant choice regarding their level of selection and associated costs. Non-resident students or students living in specific housing units can also select a block plan option that gives greater flexibility and provides meals across the semester at their choice, rather than a particular number of meals per week. These plans provide students with the possibility of retaining SNAP benefits. Students participating in specific student support programs, such as the university’s Providing Resources and Opportunities for Future Standouts (PROFS) program for students who are current or former members of the foster care system, may receive additional support to ensure their ability to be food secure.
KU has participated in the Real College Survey and the NSSE Survey to have avenues by which the university can learn about their students’ needs in fundamental areas of well-being.