Educational institutions focus much of their energy on making sure a student is college-ready, but it’s my personal belief that a college also needs to be student-ready. We need to be prepared to help students overcome any barrier they face while creating a welcoming community that supports every learner. So, when I learned that 13.3 percent of people in our county are struggling with hunger, I knew Lorain County Community College had to do more to help students overcome this barrier.
And while more than one in 10 people dealing with hunger is far too many, data suggests that community college students experience hunger at a much higher rate. A study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that hunger and food insecurity among community college students is more prevalent than previously thought – with up to 40 percent of community college students reporting that they regularly experience hunger or food insecurity. The March 2017 study surveyed more than 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states and defined food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the ability to acquire such foods in a socially acceptable manner.
These statistics certainly resonate on our campus. At a recent open forum, I asked students to identify the largest barriers they face in achieving their educational goals. Hunger was one of the most frequently cited barriers and at that moment, I knew that even though we offer an on-campus food pantry, called Commodore Cupboard, we weren’t doing enough to address this crisis. Our students often have to decide between buying food or paying rent. Students should never have their academic efforts undermined by the effects of hunger. Addressing basic needs for students is vital to their degree completion and overall quality of life, and it’s our responsibility to help.
The positive side of illuminating this crisis facing many of our students is that it is sparking action. LCCC students recently decided that fighting hunger on our campus is a priority. And so, together with students and the entire campus community, we issued the #HungerFreeLCCC challenge and asked students, faculty and staff to donate food, money or volunteer time to Commodore Cupboard. Almost immediately the pledges began pouring in, demonstrating the caring community LCCC embodies.
Helping the college in this effort is Chicks Against Hunger, a grassroots organization, that hosts food drives and works with food pantries throughout Lorain County. The organization donated more than 450 pounds of soup to for our #HungerFreeLCCC challenge. Not long ago, I met Kim McDonald, a co-founder of Chicks Against Hunger, and she told me about her dream of creating a hunger free Lorain County. It’s my hope that our work on campus will create a ripple that spreads throughout all of Lorain County and eliminates food insecurity for everyone.
The results of the #HungerFreeLCCC challenge were unveiled during our Commodores Care Day earlier this month and I can’t tell you how proud I am of our campus. In just a few short hours, the LCCC campus donated more than 3,000 pounds of food and more than $3,700 to benefit Commodore Cupboard. An additional 28 people pledged to volunteer at least 10 hours at Commodore Cupboard to help serve students in need. These donations will go a long way to helping Commodore Cupboard expand its hours and create more a holistic approach to ending hunger on campus.
As we move into the holiday season, our campus continues to support the Commodore Cupboard. At a recent event for the LCCC Culinary Arts Institute, the donation tables overflowed with nonperishable food items for Commodore Cupboard. And I know the support will continue to grow as our campus community rises up to support students in need.
If you would like to join us in fighting hunger on campus, please donate to Commodore Cupboard at www.lorainccc.edu/cupboard.