Columbus State Partners with Mid-Ohio Foodbank on Student-Centric Market
If you’re hungry, it’s difficult to concentrate in the classroom. That concept is prevalent in grade schools and high schools across the country, but hunger-based needs don’t stop at the college level. Leaders at Columbus State Community College are well aware of this issue, and are looking to take the next step in addressing food insecurity among their students by opening a market-style food pantry on-campus this fall.
“We have a lot of students who struggle financially, and one issue that goes along with that is hunger,” explained Desiree Polk-Bland, Executive Dean of Student Affairs. “We started up a partnership with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, looking to move away from pantries to more of a grocery shopping experience.”
Currently, Columbus State offers “campus cupboards” that provide hungry students with several grab-and-go snacks that can help them get through the day. The new market, which will be located in a small cinderblock warehouse building at 400 Grove St., will offer fresh produce, meat, dairy, eggs as well as some hygiene-related products.
While the idea of “starving college student” often invokes a stereotype of 18-year-olds on a ramen-based diet in their dorm rooms, the diverse demographics at Columbus State provide a much broader picture of residents that face serious food insecurity issues.
“A lot of our students are adults working full-time or part time minimum-wage jobs, and not making a supportive wage,” explained Polk-Bland. “These are often adults looking for credentials to earn a better living for their families. They’re in need of new technological skills because the working world is changing, and this will allow them to get higher wage jobs.”
“The Market on Grove” — a working title — is slated to open this August, pending any construction delays. That timeline will synchronize the launch alongside the nearby Cameron Mitchell Hall, the school’s new hospitality and culinary building, which can allow for future food-related partnerships.
“We already have experts who know what to do with food waste and reclaimed food, so we’re looking to transition that knowledge over,” said Polk-Bland. “Volunteers at the market will need some food safety training, and the culinary program could work with us on that. We’re also talking about partnering around programming inside the new innovation kitchen, but that’s way in the future at this point.”
This summer, faculty at CSCC will work to enroll income-eligible students in the Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s “pantry track” system. The market will also be open to the community at large, who also meet the income-eligibility requirements.