SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – In a groundbreaking move aimed at addressing student food insecurity, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) has become the first college in Massachusetts to join the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts as a member agency.

Starting in October 2023, STCC will be an integral part of the region’s food assistance network, further reinforcing its commitment to supporting its students’ basic needs. The partnership also builds upon STCC’s distinction as the first college in Massachusetts to join the Stop & Shop School Food Pantry Program.

STCC’s Ram Mini Mart, a campus food pantry, has been a vital resource for students facing food insecurity. Under the Stop & Shop School Food Pantry Program, Stop & Shop provides donations to support the college’s food pantry. Students who qualify can visit the on-campus Center for Access Services (CAS) to access free meals, groceries, and other essential items.

Stop & Shop initiated the school-based food pantry program to combat hunger among students in communities served by its more than 400 stores in the Northeast.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts serves 173 members in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties. These independent pantries, meal sites, and shelters play a crucial role in providing food and resources to individuals, families, seniors, children, college students, people with disabilities, and veterans to support their well-being.

Darcey Kemp, Vice President of Student Affairs at STCC, highlighted the significance of CAS, stating, “STCC values its partnerships with community organizations like the Food Bank and companies like Stop & Shop. We sincerely appreciate their support.”

José Lopez-Figueroa, Director of the CAS at STCC, expressed enthusiasm about the new partnership, saying, “We are thrilled to partner with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and continue our partnership with Stop & Shop. They are helping in our effort to ensure that no student is sitting in class hungry or goes home with nothing to eat.”

Samantha Plourd, Dean of Enrollment, Retention, and Completion at STCC, emphasized the benefits of becoming a member agency of the Food Bank, stating, “Becoming a member agency of the Food Bank is a great help to our students facing food insecurity. As a member, STCC can access thousands of pounds of healthy food for our pantry, almost entirely for free.”

This development comes as the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts expanded its operations in September with a move to Chicopee, unveiling a new headquarters with more than 60,000 square feet of space—double the size of its former building in Hatfield.

Michelle Geoffroy, Agency Relations Manager at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, expressed excitement about welcoming the first campus pantry to their member agency network, saying, “We know that more than one in three college and university students faces food insecurity, and only 20% utilize SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. This partnership will allow us to support STCC’s established food pantry and help us both to reach more of our neighbors experiencing food insecurity in Springfield and surrounding communities.”

Jennifer Barr, Director of Community Relations at Stop & Shop, applauded STCC’s commitment to addressing student hunger, saying, “Stop & Shop is so proud to continue its support for STCC’s on-campus pantry, and we congratulate the school on its continued success in doing groundbreaking work to ensure its students have access to the food and resources they need to succeed in the classroom. As a longtime partner of the Food Bank for Western Massachusetts as well, we love seeing these groups come together to help put an end to student hunger.”

STCC’s membership in the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts signifies a significant step toward creating a supportive environment for students facing food insecurity, setting a precedent for other educational institutions to follow suit in addressing this pressing issue.

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