NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.-- Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf announced that $1 million in grants have been awarded to 28 institutions of higher education (IHE) and private licensed schools, including Westminster College, to help combat student hunger on campus.
Westminster will receive a $20,000 grant through Pennsylvania’s Hunger-Free Campus Initiative to help address food insecurity issues on campus. Westminster is one of the 28 institutions from across the state representing the first cohort of awardees since the program’s creation earlier this year.
“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 post-secondary students across the nation,” said Wolf. “The PA Hunger-Free Campus designation and grant program give 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.”
In fall 2022, Westminster earned the Hunger Free Plus designation in recognition of the Office of Faith and Spirituality’s efforts to reduce food insecurity by developing a campus food pantry. The Faith and Spirituality office and the Westminster Wellness Center worked together to expand awareness and access to the food pantry through basic needs screenings during routine health appointments.
“The $20,000 grant will allow Westminster to build on the foundation set by our Office of Faith and Spirituality,” said Melissa Baron, director of the Wellness Center. Baron co-authored the grant proposal with Stephanie Holzhauser, associate director of well-being and violence prevention.
Baron said the grant will be used to implement campus-wide awareness initiatives to increase utilization of the food pantry service and to provide stipends for food pantry staffing that will permit increased hours of operation and access points on campus.
Last year Westminster’s food pantry, which is open to all students facing food insecurity, served 87 students. Students may place specific food pantry orders online or pick up pre-packaged bags. The pantry provides basic staple items, fresh produce, frozen meals, canned food, cereal, pasta, deli meats and cheeses, and more.
The grant will also allow Westminster to join the Hope Impact Partnership through Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice to administer a campus-wide basic needs assessment.
“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 Frances 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, 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.