Efforts to work together with area service agencies and other local entities were cited by several colleges that responded to the survey, as well. At Gwynedd Mercy University, “Key staff and administrators have joined in partnership with a local community college and food bank to explore how they might leverage their shared footprint to provide additional resources to support the basic needs of students who are struggling,” said Betsy Stone Plummer, assistant director of campus ministry for the university .
Nourishing the Whole Student
Because hunger is often just one symptom of wider challenges that a student is facing, college administrators say they must look more broadly at what a student might be needing. Alvernia University, for instance, maintains a program “that provides clothing, books, supplies, and other services for students who have a need,” said Julianne Wallace, Alvernia’s vice president for mission and ministry.
“We offer a student emergency fund where students who have recently encountered an unforeseen issue can apply for funding up to $500,” explained Amanda Ingersoll Villanueva, assistant dean of students at the University of St. Thomas in Texas. But the institution responds with more than just financial help. “If a student applies, it triggers an automatic in-person meeting with the Dean of Students office to discuss the situation, because financial insecurity can impact other areas of their life, like their school work or relationships with others. … About six weeks after receiving the funding, the Dean of Students office follows up with the student to see how their financial situation has improved, maintained, or worsened, and uses this as an opportunity to discuss other strategies and initiatives as necessary.”
Likewise, St. Norbert College takes steps to address student needs holistically. The office of Health and Wellness Services serves as the point of referral, reported Julie Massey, interim vice president for mission and student affairs. “Staff there can work one-on-one to determine more sustainable sources of support,” such as state aid for students who are independent from their family. “Navigating these systems is complex, and so Health and Wellness Services plays a case management role to support the students.”
Read more about how Catholic colleges and universities are addressing food insecurity in the winter 2019 edition of Update, the newsletter of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
—Posted December 16, 2019