On Friday, officials in Pennsylvania announced the creation of the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative, a pilot program that aims to reduce food insecurity among college students throughout the state.
The initiative, a partnership between Pennsylvania’s First Lady Frances Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, was announced during a press conference at Millersville University, which is participating in the program.
“We know that students need access to healthy food to stay focused, learn, grow, and thrive. And yet, many postsecondary students face financial barriers to filling their most basic needs,” Eric Hagarty, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of education, said at the event. “The Hunger-Free Campus Initiative empowers Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to combat hunger on their campuses and provide the resources that students need to continue their education and go on to obtain family-sustaining, meaningful careers.”
The initiative seeks to build a coalition of colleges and universities across the state who can work together to address student food insecurity on their campuses. These efforts include connecting students with advocates, directly providing them with resources, and supporting student and campus grant opportunities that tailor to food insecurity.
The grant program was allocated $1 million in Pennsylvania’s 2022-2023 budget. The funds will be used to help eligible schools create or improve student food pantries, enhance data gathering methods to measure student needs, and bolster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program outreach.
The state encourages institutions to apply for the PA Hunger-Free Campus designation to demonstrate their commitment to reducing food insecurity and access funding to reduce student hunger.
“Hunger is a devastating reality affecting too many of Pennsylvania’s postsecondary students as they strive to further their education, and today I am proud to say that, here in Pennsylvania, we are refusing to accept it,” Wolf said in a statement. “I invite all of Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher education to apply for the Hunger-Free Campus designation and join their dedicated colleagues in ensuring our students have access to the tools they need to succeed, especially nutritious food.”