Innovation in Student Support Programs

The cost of higher education is on the rise, but there’s more to the cost of enrollment than just tuition and books. Food expenses are an undeniable necessity that is very often overlooked as a cost of education. According to Feeding America, nearly 20 million US college students experience food insecurity today, that’s 1 in 3 college students. The COVID-19 pandemic has made food insecurity even worse for college students. In the fall of 2020, the Hope Center found that college students who had Covid-19 were 1.7 times more likely to experience some form of food insecurity.

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Feeding America describes food insecurity as a “household’s inability to provide adequate nutrition for each family member to live a healthy life”. Food insecurity can also be described as an individual not knowing where their next meal will come from.

Despite government data exhibiting increasing hunger rates among students, the federal government denied state requests to waive certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requirements that would greatly help college students. In April 2020, a federal waiver to provide college students expanded access to SNAP by eliminating the requirement to work at least 20 hours per week was denied. Sometimes a college student’s only meal opportunity is provided by on-campus assistance, such a campus food pantry.

To combat this growing food insecurity problem among students, many colleges and universities are developing innovative programs and initiatives. For example, Colorado State University created Rams Against through their Office of Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement. This initiative offers programs like on-campus food pantries, food recovery programs, assistance with federal aid applications, and meal swipe programs.

Texas Woman’s University has recently partnered with Rachel Sumekh to bring Swipe out  to address hunger among college students at their Denton Campus. Swipe Out Hunger partnered with colleges and universities to design and implement anti-hunger programs.

And University of Texas Arlington recently adopted Pieces Connect, an online case management software that can support all types of student social service programs and resources, to better manage their on-campus programs, including their food pantry. Using Pieces Connect, administrators can track resources, usage and program activity as students access common resources like food pantries, financial assistance programs, clothing services and more across campus. Pieces Connect can provide your administrators with the data your school needs to understand where to apply more resources, and armed with this usage data, your administrators can make the case for more funding, where needed. 

To learn more about Pieces Connect for Higher Education, join us for an info session.