Marie Dillivan at Massachusetts Campus Compact

Marie Head ShotFood and housing insecurity in higher education have been receiving increased attention in recent years. This January, the Boston Globe published another article highlighting these issues after the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education presented results from its 2016 Survey of Student Hunger and Homelessness among Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities. Their survey found that over a third of campuses are seeing increases in food and housing insecurity.

As the MACC AmeriCorps Vista researching these issues, I’m collecting information on MACC campus support for students as well as outside resources to eventually make them available to our network. I’m working to create a comprehensive database of what, where, and how our MACC member campuses are providing food and housing support for students. I’ve been visiting campuses to learn more about how they are carrying out this work including the UMass Boston U-ACCESS Office and the Mount Wachusett Community College Student SOS Office. Both of these offices are housed within their campus’ civic engagement office and work to provide comprehensive support for students facing challenges outside of the classroom while utilizing student volunteers.

As part of my resource collection work, I have identified many national organizations, reports, studies, surveys, websites, assessment tools, examples of practice, and toolkits relating to these topics that I plan to provide in an easily accessible and organized format for our members. With the help of these resources, campuses can work to identify the best interventions for their students, staff, and faculty. One of the most popular interventions of course, is the creation of campus food pantries with the support of student groups, student affairs staff, dining providers, and community partners. My hope is that upon further discussion of this topic and creation of resources, more campuses will be able to develop food pantries and other food assistance of their own.

Our overall goal in this work is to plan a statewide convening of student service and community engagement professionals for a discussion on how higher education institutions can align these retention efforts with their civic engagement programming on campus. I have already seen some examples of how this is being done on campuses, and we are planning to explore this idea much further. Students are part of a campus community, and being engaged with and supporting this community is an important part of its development and overall success. Openly addressing food and housing insecurity on campuses and incorporating these issues under the umbrella of student services also helps to reduce the stigma of accessing support as a college student. We are hoping to support the great work that campuses are already doing and push the conversation further about how to connect community engagement with these student support services.

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