Last updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at 9:45 PM
Monday's visit included a tour of the Newtown campus food pantry and meetings with students and the college president. In Newtown, Bucks County Community College welcomed Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf on Monday, June 27, to the Newtown Campus for a tour and a discussion with students and staff about college hunger.
Mrs. Wolf addressed the growing need for resources for students experiencing food and basic needs insecurity. She discussed Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed $1 million investment to address college hunger, and $200 million investment to create the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program in the 2022-23 state budget.
“Too many college students are overworked and underserved as they pursue futures that can benefit all of Pennsylvania,” said the first lady. “With proposals like the Hunger-Free Campus initiative and Nellie Bly, we have an opportunity to alleviate the burden of hunger for the students who need it most and help them pay for the stifling costs of higher education.”
For example, student Jocelyn Walters told the first lady that she had faced food insecurity most of her life, but the support from Bucks County Community College have helped her focus on her classes and taking care of her newborn son.
“A lot of the food pantries have expired food and no fresh produce,” said the Quakertown resident who is majoring in social work. “But I know that when I reach out to Bucks, they can help me with a grocery store gift card, which is a huge help for me as a new mom. Now I want to devote my life to helping people, because of the way the people at this college have helped me.
An estimated 36% of students know someone who dropped out of college due to food insecurity during the pandemic. Roughly 52% of students who faced food or housing insecurity in 2020 did not apply for support because they did not know how.
“Part of Bucks County Community College’s mission is to provide innovative pathways that inspire educational, professional, and personal fulfillment,” said Dekia Smith, the college’s interim Dean of Students. “We recognize that whether it’s food insecurity, homelessness, or the need for emergency funds, many of our students do not have what they need to meet their higher education goals. The Governor’s proposal to ‘Swipe Out Hunger’ would support our work to ensure an accessible, equitable, and supportive experience for our students. We are excited to be a part of this groundbreaking and transformative initiative.”
First Lady Wolf toured the Bucks campus, learning about how the college is addressing the basic needs of its students with programs like Keystone Education Yields Success. Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services at the state’s community colleges, KEYS helps students who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) in their pursuit of post-secondary education by:
- Providing career counseling, tutoring and academic support, and help with financial aid;
- Facilitating support services such as child care, textbooks, and transportation assistance, available through the County Assistance Office or the College; and
- Connecting students to other community service agencies.
In addition, Bucks County Community College developed a gift-card program that enables students to make their own food choices, has a fully stocked food pantry, and “standing pantries,” which are shelves conveniently placed across campus that offer snacks and toiletries.
Following the tour, Mrs. Wolf joined students and staff for a discussion on college hunger. She shared the governor’s budget proposals to confront the substantial costs of college and food insecurity among college students, encouraging the college community to contact their elected officials and urge them to act on the behalf of Pennsylvania’s students.
In his 2022-23 budget, Governor Wolf has proposed $1 million to create the Hunger-Free Campus grant program. This program would help colleges and universities set up or expand food pantries, increase SNAP outreach and education, improve data gathering, and support other projects that could meet the needs of hungry students on campus. Colleges and universities are also encouraged to become a COMPASS Community Partner, which facilitates connecting students to a range of support and assistance.
Additionally, Governor Wolf has proposed $200 million for the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program, a needs-based scholarship to support equitable access and enrollment in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools and Pennsylvania’s community colleges. The scholarship would support tuition and fill in gaps for the true costs of attendance. It also addresses critical workforce needs by prioritizing students pursuing programs in healthcare, education, and public service. Students who take advantage of the program must stay in Pennsylvania to live and work for the same amount of time they receive the scholarship benefit.
Photos from the First Lady’s visit can be found at www.pacast.com.
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