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Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Coronavirus Response Fund helping GRCC students facing food insecurity

April 16, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Efforts to help Grand Rapids Community College students facing food insecurity during the coronavirus crisis will get a boost through a $10,000 grant from Heart of West Michigan United Way's Coronavirus Response Fund.

The grant will be used to purchase groceries for GRCC’s food pantry, which has helped more than 150 students through curbside food pickups during the past three weeks.

The Coronavirus Response Fund, administered by United Way, is a coordinated effort on the part of foundations, corporations and individuals to quickly raise and allocate money to local agencies meeting the needs of those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re so proud to be able to support GRCC's efforts to provide food security to their students,” said Michelle Van Dyke, president and CEO of Heart of West Michigan United Way.

“The coronavirus outbreak is the kind of test our community faces once in a generation. Its impact is being felt in countless ways, but we’re feeling the strain acutely in the nonprofit sector because it falls to us to respond when people are struggling to afford the basics like food.”

The next curbside distribution is planned for Wednesday, April 22 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Additional dates will be posted on the college’s Get Help website,

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

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 and their families face food and housing insecurity.

“It’s heartbreaking to know so many GRCC students are struggling through the COVID-19 crisis, but comforting to see our community partners coming together to help us support them,” Mullins said. “We appreciate the support of the Heart of West Michigan United Way in providing these basic needs for our students so they can continue with their education.”

GRCC’s Office of Student Life and Conduct has worked with community partners, including Feeding America West Michigan, Meijer, GRCC’s Campus Dining, and the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education to gather food for distribution. The Kent County Essential Needs Task Force played a large role in making community connections.

The campus’ Student Alliance also donated $8,000 of its funds to support the food pantry and the Student Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps students who face emergencies 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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