HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The pandemic has increased the need for affordable, healthy food in the Pioneer Valley.

A first of its kind campus convenience store has opened up at Holyoke Community College. The Homestead Market will be the first campus convenience store in the state to accept federal snap benefits.

“At HCC, we have a higher rate of food insecurity than the national average,” explains President Dr. Christina Royal. “We want to be able to give them access to healthy food.”

The store offers food, drinks, and personal care items. It’s open to everyone – not just students and staff at Holyoke Community College.

“This is a community issue to me,” said Dr. Royal. “This isn’t just a college issue. This is about lifting up our residents, who many happen to be college students, to be able to put them in positions to succeed.”

Chris Coburn is a student at HCC. He’s also a diabetic. He told 22News how the Homestead Market will help him stay focused on his school work.

“If my blood sugar is low, I can’t really focus on classes. If I’m hungry, it’s hard to pass that test,” Coburn said. “Of course, the food stamps attached to it makes it even easier because then it’s like, I can save money for rent by using the food stamps to pay for my food.”

The Homestead Market will be open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 AM in the morning until 1:00 PM.