Food insecurity is a problem that many college students across the country face—it can be difficult to focus on education for those who are unsure how they will afford their next meal. Over the last few years, Millersville University has taken steps toward alleviating food insecurity on campus.
Two recent endowments made by alumni are targeted toward food insecurity. One of these donations created the Seaber Athletic Meal Support Fund, founded by alumna Kathryn Seaber ’76. This endowment was created to help student-athletes through partial or complete meal plan funding.
Another award, the Murley Meal Plan Support Scholarship Endowment, was donated by alumna Karen Murley ’63. This scholarship is meant to provide the recipients, students in good academic standing with demonstrated financial need, with a meal plan for both the fall and spring semesters.
Hunger-Free Campus Initiative
Pennsylvania’s First Lady Frances Wolf and acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty visited Millersville in August to announce the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative. This grant program is designed to help students at risk of hunger access free, healthy food on college campuses across Pennsylvania.
Many students have relied on free meals throughout their lives, but college students do not often have access to the same assistance provided by their grade schools and secondary schools. The Hunger-Free Campus Initiative seeks to help students financially as they balance the costs of housing, tuition, textbooks and more.
The initiative focuses on building a coalition of colleges and universities across the state in order to provide resources for campuses and support opportunities to apply for grants related to addressing food insecurity. Universities in the coalition will work to address student hunger and other basic needs.
Millersville University has been designated as a PA Hunger-Free Campus. That means the University will have access to the PA Hunger-Free Campus grant program. One million dollars of the 2022-23 state budget will be applied to this program, which will also help schools enhance food pantries and increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program outreach.
The Food Recovery Network at MU is a student-run organization which, under the advisement of Dr. Jennifer Frank, has helped to eliminate food waste and food insecurity on campus since its inception in 2017. The club currently collects food and other prepackaged snacks that students donate from the Cove, and then gives that food to the Campus Cupboard, located in the HUB. Over the past five years, FRN has collected and donated 1,870 pounds of food.
“The FRN is a local chapter of a national organization and movement,” explains Frank. “FRN’s mission is to eliminate waste and feed people! I love that dual goal. It is a shame that there is so much food waste, especially when there are so many hungry people. We need to be more creative and figure out ways to do both.”
As for the Campus Cupboard, the HUB’s new director, Jacob Marino, plans to continue the food pantry. Here, students can shop for groceries at no cost, including frozen meals, dry and canned goods, specialty items and hygiene products.
The HUB has always been a place of service on campus, and Marino plans to continue the tradition. Free meals are served to the Millersville community every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Grab-and-go breakfast items are available in the HUB café every morning, where an assortment of snacks can often be found as well.
The University also encourages the use of Share Meals, a free app that helps students locate free food on campus. By creating an account with their Millersville email address, students are automatically enrolled in the Millersville community and can get notifications whenever an event with free meals occurs. Students can also use the app to indicate that they would like to share their dining funds with another student. This not only eliminates hunger but also allows students to create new friendships by sharing a meal together.
Additionally, a new orchard on campus will begin to produce fruit in about three to five years. The biology department is partnering with the HUB, and some of this fresh produce will be donated to the Campus Cupboard.
“This is a serious issue for many reasons,” says Frank. “Hunger and food insecurity affect our health, our academics and our overall well-being.”
“A study we conducted in 2019, which is now published in the ‘Journal of Poverty,’ found 36.5% of our students had low or very low food security,” she concludes. “It is so important to focus on food security because this issue affects more students than you might think.”