Achieving the Dream Offers Guidance on Tackling Student Hunger Through Food Pantries

Colleges in ATD’s Working Student Success Network Find Food Pantries Meet Immediate Needs While Opening the Door to Additional Services

Silver Spring, MD (November 30, 2017) – Achieving the Dream (ATD) today released Addressing Food Insecurity on Campus: Establishing Food Pantries at Community Colleges and Connecting Students to Wider Services, a practical guide to starting food pantries on community college campuses.  The report is drawn from experience in ATD’s Working Students Success Network (WSSN), which is generously funded by The Annie E. Casey, W.K. Kellogg, Kresge, Lumina, and MetLife Foundations and includes a group of 19 community colleges that offer integrated services to prepare low-income students for jobs with family-sustaining wages.

A 2017 Wisconsin HOPE Lab survey of 33,000 students at 70 community colleges across 24 states found that a majority (56 percent) of the students surveyed did not have enough food. More recently, researchers from the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution fielded a nationally representative survey and found a lower but still alarming percentage of college students facing food insecurity on college campuses.

“The data make it painfully clear that hunger is a constant worry for too many students and threatens to keep them from finishing their studies,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “Our report offers advice on setting up food pantries as a first step toward meeting an immediate need while recognizing the opportunity pantries present to link students to a range of integrated services that build longer-term financial stability and academic success.”

Addressing Food Insecurity on Campus recommends that colleges preparing to launch food pantries consider the following steps, among others:

  • Hold student focus groups to hear directly from them about their needs.
  • Discuss the issue of food insecurity with faculty and staff.
  • Find lead people to champion this work.
  • Map the needed resources.
  • Reach out to community partners.
  • Launch the food pantry with a campus-wide kickoff event.
  • Identify students who are most in need.

Addressing food insecurity has become a critical piece of the work at ATD’s WSSN colleges. The 13 WSSN colleges with existing or planned food pantries have helped students meet a fundamental need and also used the pantries as an opportunity to assess and offer students a broader range of services. By state, the colleges are:
Arkansas: North Arkansas College, and Phillips Community College;
California: Cañada College, Los Angeles Harbor College, Porterville College, and Skyline College;
Virginia: Eastern Shore Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, and Patrick Henry Community College; and
Washington: Big Bend Community College, Clark College, Highline College, and Walla Walla Community College.

Insufficient food often signals a much larger and more complex set of difficulties, such as lack of adequate housing, homelessness, or difficulty finding child care or transportation. Left unaddressed, any of these challenges can become barriers that slow or stop students’ progress toward a certificate or degree.

Dr. Greg Hodges, Vice President of Academic and Student Success Services at Patrick Henry Community College, said, "Patrick Henry's student support staff long recognized that many of our students were struggling with basic needs, for example food insecurity.  Through our work with WSSN to establish the Patriot Pantry, we have been able to meet students’ needs and engage faculty, staff and the whole community in providing this vital student support."

Read the full Addressing Food Insecurity on Campus report here.


Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. Evidence-based, student-centered, and built on the values of equity and excellence, Achieving the Dream is closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success nationwide by: 1) guiding evidence-based institutional improvement, 2) leading policy change, 3) generating knowledge, and 4) engaging the public. Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, today, Achieving the Dream is leading the most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education history. With over 200 institutions, more than 100 coaches and advisors, and 15 state policy teams - working throughout 35 states and the District of Columbia – the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network helps more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.

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