Written by Stefano Mancini, Bill Emerson Congressional Hunger Center Fellow with The Greater Boston Food Bank.

The buildings of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) have long been sites of innovation – on the site of the historic Springfield Armory, a pioneering manufacturing center, the legacy lives on not just through the Commonwealth’s only technical community college but through the innovative approaches to combating food insecurity on campus. 

STCC is one of 27 public and minority-serving institutions in MA that received funding through the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative, administered by the Department of Higher Education. These funds have allowed STCC to tackle food insecurity with technology, enhanced access and increased services, seeking to ensure that no student is missed in the College’s anti-hunger strategy.  

The Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition, founded in 2019 and led by The Greater Boston Food Bank, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, works to advance legislative and budget campaigns to permanently establish and fund the Initiative. Currently, the Coalition is advocating for $2 million in the FY25 state budget for the Initiative (building upon $1M in the FY24 budget and $3.7M through ARPA funding), and to pass an Act establishing the Hunger Free Campus Initiative (S835 / H1293). The legislation is sponsored by State Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill) and SSU’s representative and alumna, State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem). 

At STCC’s food pantry, the Ram Mini Mart, Hunger-Free Campus funds are supporting data collection and inventory management to make sure the greatest number of students possible benefit from the partnership and to collect additional information on what communities at STCC are most affected by hunger. The Ram Mini Mart receives food from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and currently serves 300 households per semester. Students are also benefiting from a new capital investment in food lockers – which can be temperature-adjusted based on what the student ordered. Staff can place students’ food pantry orders directly in their locker so that groceries can be picked up when busy students have a moment. 

These initiatives are helping STCC, located in an area with low access to grocery stores, build a more food-secure college community. It is not an exaggeration to say that these funds are changing student lives. One student leader at STCC said, “I know I can come up to the office at any time to get the help I need unrelated to academics. Last year when I got the push I needed I was able to bounce back and become Student Body Vice-President. Not having enough to support yourself reflects on your grades tremendously.  The Center for Access Services has given me the ability to thrive throughout my college life.” 

Becoming a hunger-free campus is in line with STCC’s goal of making quality technical education accessible and affordable to underserved communities and supporting the Commonwealth’s workforce development. “Investing in the hunger-free campus is investing in local economy,” notes Jose Lopez-Figueroa, Director of the Center for Access Services. “Education directly impacts a vibrant, productive workforce to support a strong economy. Whether with certifications, licenses, or degrees, you need an educated workforce, and you can’t get an education on an empty stomach.” 

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