Program to Help Make Sure College Students Are Well-Fed

College can be hard.

"Wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning to make an 8 o'clock class and then go to work," said Akazha Roberts, a student at Massachusetts Bay Community College in Wellesley.

College can also be expensive.

"I mean, it's hard. You have to pay for books. You have to pay for school," said Richard MaMahon, who is also a student at MassBay.

Imagine doing all of that on an empty stomach.

That is the case for thousands of college students in Massachusetts, including 52% of students at MassBay, according to President David Podell.

"You can't do well in school if your stomach is hungry if your blood sugar is low, if you're worried about where your next meal is coming from," Podell said.

That is why MassBay has partnered with the Greater Boston Food Bank to bring a monthly produce-only mobile market to campus that gives outs free food he for students who struggle to pay for food, including Roberts, a biotechnology major.

"Well, I think that's just a really good idea, especially for those who not only to pay the bills so we can be in classes, but also be able to feed themselves," Roberts said.

The mobile market only distributes fruits and vegetables because produce is often harder for people or families who are considered low income to come by, even though they need nutritious food as much as anyone else.

"We believe people in need, people who are experiencing food insecurity, deserve access to fresh veggies, fresh fruit," said Catherine Drennan, spokeswoman with of the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Drennan said programs like the mobile market are becoming more common at community colleges, which is where the need is often greater.

In a recent study, 44% of Massachusetts community college students surveyed said they lacked enough food. But food insecurity isn't only a problem at community colleges -- it's also a problem at four-year colleges, including the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

"We have a food pantry, as you can see, and a free lunch three days a week, a snack program for on the go," said Valerie Lamour, who runs the UMass food pantry, which is part of the school's UAccess program.

Experts say similar free food programs are popping up at four-year colleges and universities nationwide due in part to skyrocketing tuition costs.

In the same study, 33% of Massachusetts four-year college students reported being food insecure.

Whether at community colleges or universities, college hunger is a growing problem. But college campus food pantries and free food programs offer a start to solving it.

"It's actually really beneficial for everybody, especially for students like me, who actually have to work multiple jobs just to pay for a school bill," Roberts said.

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