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December 19, 2022

MWCC granted $179K in ARPA funds to support food security

Photo | Courtesy Mount Wachusett Community College Mount Wachusett Community College student Adiana Buzzell (left) and Brewer Center Director Shelley Errington Nicholson at the Gardner campus student pantry.

Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner received $178,535 from the Massachusetts Campus Hunger-Free grant program to support the school’s effort to minimize food insecurity among its students.

The grant is funded by the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

MWCC’s Addressing Food Security and Expanding Basic Needs Services project will have a full-time basic needs specialist and include community partnerships to help with food security initiatives, the purchasing of refrigerated lockers at the school’s Leominster campus pantry, and software to allow the pantry to expand its hours for food pick-up, according to a Dec. 13 press release from MWCC.

The role of the basic needs specialist will be to oversee the food pantries in Leominster and Gardner, coordinate with volunteers, assist with SNAP benefits, help people find other resources, and develop internal and external relationships to help students at MWCC. 

The renovated Leominster campus’s refrigerated locker system will allow students to put in food orders digitally and enable them to pick-up orders from the lockers whenever the campus is open, even if the pantry is closed. The new registration system allows the pantry to provide perishable goods like milk, eggs, and produce, which it couldn’t do before. 
The Food for Thought Pantry at MWCC is managed by the Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, which focuses on service learning, volunteerism, internships/co-ops, and civic outreach. The food pantry was  started in 2017 after the student body at the community college was surveyed and 37% of respondents said they struggled with food security. 

In September, MWCC received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support its Strengthening Sustainable Food Production Through Hands-on Instruction in Massachusetts project. 

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