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GRCC receives grant from Kent County, Heart of West Michigan United Way to help students struggling with food insecurity

Sept. 9, 2020, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College continues to help students struggling with food insecurity with support from a $48,796 grant from Kent County and the Heart of West Michigan United Way.

GRCC’s Office of Student Life has offered curbside food distribution since March, providing more than 1,200 bags of nonperishable food – such as canned fruit, noodles, cereal and rice -- along with frozen meats, fruit, and eggs. The college also has provided household cleaning and hygiene supplies, baby food, formula, diapers and wipes, and pet food.

The additional funds will help the college continue providing food and other materials through the fall, with the distribution moving indoors to the food pantry in the Student Community Center. The next session is planned for 3-6 p.m. on Sept. 16.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners is partnering with the Heart of West Michigan United Way to use federal CARES Act funding to support nonprofit organizations providing relief services.

“Prior to the pandemic, many families and individuals struggled to meet their basic needs. Covid-19 has worsened the strain on those who were already struggling and caused others to experience difficulties for the first time in their lives,” said Michelle Van Dyke, Heart of West Michigan United Way President and CEO. “These dollars provide critical relief to organizations like GRCC that are working tirelessly to serve the growing needs of so many in our community.”  

The next session is planned for 3-6 p.m. on Sept. 16.

Students can fill out an online form to confirm they are enrolled in at least one GRCC course. They then visit RaiderConnect to RSVP for each food distribution they would like to attend.

More than 70 percent of GRCC students attend part time, scheduling classes around work and home responsibilities. With many area employers limiting hours or closing their doors in response to the crisis, more students face food and housing insecurity.

“Many students struggle with food insecurity, and the need for assistance increased dramatically during the coronavirus crisis,” said Lina Blair, director of GRCC’s Office of Student Life. “We deeply appreciate the support from Kent County and the Heart of West Michigan United Way. This will help students continue their education and gain the skills they need to be successful.”

Additional distribution dates are posted on the college’s Get Help website:

Dr. Kathryn Mullins, vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation, said the grant will help students continue their education by assisting them with basic needs.

 “This is another example of our community supporting GRCC and its students,” Mullins said. “Students of all ages are looking for a quality education and additional skills as our region recovers. We are working to remove food insecurity as an obstacle to their success.”

Leaders in Student Alliance, a group representing students at GRCC, voted to support the food distribution during the summer through a $30,000 donation. Earlier, Student Alliance donated $8,000 to support the food pantry and the Student Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps students who face challenges such as losing their job, a place to live or having their utilities shut off.

The Student Emergency Assistance Fund has provided more than $100,000 in grants and loans since 2014. The number of students needing assistance has increased since the start of the Winter 2020 semester, spiking dramatically since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Community members can donate through the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s online donation page,  Select "Student Food Pantry" or "Student Emergency Fund" from the drop-down menu under "Designation.”

Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.

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