Oct 10, 2018

Columbia State Receives Grant to Research Student Food Pantry Program

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. - Oct. 10, 2018) - - - Columbia State Community College recently received a grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents that will fund research for establishing a food pantry and student resource distribution center program.

"College food pantries are becoming common place in the campus footprint," said Dr. Christa Martin, Columbia State assistant to the president for access and diversity. "The research indicated in this study will answer nine critical management and space requirement questions that must be considered before any project of this size can be reviewed by college leadership for implementation. The data from this research will be used in the final decision to answer the question - Can Columbia State partner and support a year-round Food Pantry and Student Resource Distribution Center?"

The project will benefit all Columbia State students with a focus on all groups of underrepresented students at the college. The grant project will help identify areas for support and improvement that can help the underrepresented student population by way of engagement, retention and success/completion. This program has the potential to support several hundred students with adequate partnerships in our communities.

The Columbia State Office of Access and Diversity will conduct research and survey students and community members from the college's nine-county service area to identify needs. The research will provide details on maintaining a food pantry and resource distribution center at the Columbia Campus and utilize the college's courier service to dispense resources to all college locations. The results will be recorded and presented to college leadership who will then decide if the college has the resources to develop a pantry that would meet the demand.

Students share many reasons why they drop out or withdraw from college such as medical emergencies or chronic medical problems, financial burdens that require an increase in work hours or create an inability to pay tuition, a lack of affordable child care options for enrolled students, the need to provide care for aging parents or grandparents, changes to work hours or schedule or the loss of a job, insufficient transportation to get to on-ground courses and many others.

According to a study conducted by the Community College Enterprise in 2006, the top two reasons reported are personal and financial issues that provide support for this project and stress the importance of addressing them from a college-wide standpoint.

"This program has the potential to support several hundred students with adequate partnerships in our communities," Martin said. "Our current food bag program, helps many of our students, this would take that a step farther."

In spring 2014, Columbia State partnered with Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill to implement a "Free Food Bag" program for students. To date, the college has received over 700 bags for students.

"We appreciate the bags we get from Spring Meadows for our students," Martin said. "Community partners help our students succeed."