College of DuPage hosts Illinois Higher Education Food Insecurity Summit March 13
As part of its ongoing effort to address hunger on campus and position itself as a leader in addressing food insecurity on college campuses statewide, College of DuPage is hosting an inaugural Illinois Higher Education Food Insecurity Summit to bring together colleges and community organizations to share ideas and best practices.
The summit will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, in the Jack H. Turner Conference Center on the College's Glen Ellyn campus, 425 Fawell Blvd.
"The summit will provide an opportunity for colleges and community organizations to gain a better understanding as to how food insecurity impacts the ability of students to focus on their education," said COD Assistant Provost of Student Affairs Dr. Diana Del Rosario. "It will allow for attendees to engage in identifying practices they can implement at their institutions to provide support, resources and referrals that reduce hunger as a stress factor."
Stories about college hunger have been largely cemented by ramen noodle and cereal jokes. But recent data indicate the problem is more serious and widespread. A recent federal Government Accountability Office report found that food insecurity ranged from 9 percent to more than 50 percent among college students.
Summit keynote speaker, Dr. Donna Beegle, president of Communication Across Barriers, will address how to work more effectively with students and families experiencing poverty and how to improve communication across poverty barriers. Beegle moved from 28 years of homelessness to achieve a doctorate.
For more than 25 years, she has traveled throughout hundreds of cities in 47 states and four countries assisting professionals with proven strategies for breaking poverty barriers.
During the summit, a panel of experts will bring national, state and local perspectives on how colleges can address from a policy and service perspective the needs of students who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Panelists include Lauren Walizer, Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C., who will provide a national perspective on poverty issues and food insecurity, and members from local agencies such as the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Tickets to the summit through Thursday, Feb. 20, are $55 per person.
After Feb. 20, tickets are $70 per person. Learn more and register at www.cod.edu/rsvp/food-insecurity-summit.aspx.
Registrants are encouraged to fill out a survey beforehand to share the strategies your institution uses to help students address needs related to food insecurity and other concerns that interfere with the ability for students to focus on their education. Summarized results from the survey will be shared at the summit.
The summit comes at a time when food insecurity is top of mind at community colleges. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) recently introduced the Food for Thought Act, which would create a pilot program to provide grants to community colleges so they can offer free meals to students in need. The bill would authorize $6 million for fiscal years 2020-23 for the program and colleges could receive grants of up to $200,000.
Del Rosario said, if approved, the Food for Thought Act has the potential to have a large impact for students in need at COD and could increase student completion rates by removing hunger as a barrier to success when paired with other campus and local initiatives.
"College of DuPage's recent efforts to end food insecurity on campus and in the surrounding community have already made a large impact and we are just getting started," Del Rosario said.
The Food Security Initiative team, made up of faculty, staff and student interns, meet clients' needs through an on-campus Fuel Garden and Fuel Pantry. The garden and pantry provide nutritious food, educate through academic study and direct participation, and engage the local population to assess and meet its nutritional needs.
In 2019, 308 individual clients made 1,681 visits to the Fuel Pantry that provided them with food, health products, school supplies and produce from the Fuel Garden. The Fuel Garden harvested a total of 6,175.82 oz. (386 lb.) of produce and sold $589.87 worth of produce to 174 customers during weekly produce sales.
COD Biology Professor and Food Security Initiative team member Shamili Ajgaonkar said fighting food insecurity on campus is a cross-disciplinary initiative. After the establishment of the pantry and garden, staff and faculty acted as stewards of the project by expanding the involvement of students, faculty and staff from a variety of programs and departments across campus including architecture, culinary, biology, English, speech communication, horticulture, art, student life, Phi Theta Kappa, student clubs and organizations, the McAninch Arts Center, COD Natural Areas and COD Cares.
"Cross-disciplinary collaboration is the heart of addressing food insecurity on campus," Ajgaonkar said. "To end chronic hunger on campus, we need everyone's involvement. In addition to our work on campus, our community partnerships greatly enhance our efforts to reach more individuals in need."
Community partners include Chipotle, the Community Hunger Network, Chicago Region Trees Initiative, The Garden Works Project, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Mariano's, The Morton Arboretum, Panera Bread and the People's Resource Center.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 25,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The college grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.