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UMass Food Pantry Helps Students in Need

The issue of child hunger and initiatives to alleviate this epidemic, such as school meal programs and our own School-based Pantries, are well known. However, many do not realize that college and graduate students are also at risk of hunger. Regardless of age, it’s difficult to learn on an empty stomach.

“There’s a misconception that students in higher education don’t have a problem accessing the food they need to stay healthy,” explains Shirley Fan-Chan, Director of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston’s U-ACCESS program, which supports students to achieve academic success without being derailed by non-academic issues. “But many of our students are struggling to pay their tuition as well as living expenses, and their degree requirements make it very hard for them to hold down a job while completing their coursework. Too many are forced to choose between paying their tuition and buying essentials like food. To feed their families, some are forced to drop out, abandoning their dreams of a better life.”

Too many college students are forced to choose between paying their tuition and buying essentials like food., says Shirley Fan-Chan, Director of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston’s U-ACCESS program.
Too many college students are forced to choose between paying their tuition and buying essentials like food, says Shirley Fan-Chan, Director of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston’s U-ACCESS program.

To help address these challenges, in 2013 Fan-Chan launched a program that provided a bag of donated food items to eligible students once per week. By 2015, the growth of the program necessitated a more sustainable approach, and she turned to GBFB for help. By becoming one of GBFB’s 550 member agencies, the U-ACCESS Food Pantry at UMass Boston has doubled the number of students it serves. They are also able to provide a greater variety of healthy food options, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Their market-style distribution allows students to choose items that are best for themselves and their families.

“With GBFB as our partner, UMass students can now access high quality, nutritious food twice per week. The grocery money they save can be put toward other expenses, like rent and tuition,” concludes Fan-Chan, who regularly fields requests from other schools for advice on how they can help struggling students. “Now, we’re able to plan further expansion to five days a week. Together, we’re helping to ensure that students successfully complete their degree and improve their life choices and opportunities.

In addition to the food pantry at UMass Boston, The Greater Boston Food Bank also serves this student population through Mobile Market distributions at Bunker Hill Community College, Bristol County Community College and 8 K-12 schools. Last year, GBFB provided 362,795 pounds of nutritious food, enough for over 302,000 meals, to students across eastern Massachusetts. The U-ACCESS Food Pantry at UMass Boston is just one out of over 500 member agencies GBFB serves across Eastern Massachusetts. To learn more about GBFB, visit www.gbfb.org

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