Students in the Gunnison Valley are feeling the impact.
GUNNISON, Colorado: Western Colorado University’s work to mitigate hunger issues on campus got a big boost in October when it received a $5,000 grant from the Albertsons Companies Foundation’s Nourishing Neighbors charitable program. Western was chosen to receive the grant because of the University’s commitment to connecting qualified individuals with federal meal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The Mountaineer Marketplace, which is operated by the University’s Student Health and Community Wellness Department, is using the funds to support SNAP registration on campus to make sure students have access to the resources they need to stay nourished.
“This generous donation from The Albertsons Companies Foundation’s Nourishing Neighbors program will continue to help Western address hunger issues in our community by connecting individuals in need with federal meal programs and help to ensure our students have enough to eat,” said Associate Director of Community Wellness McKenzie Mathewson.
Students’ job, expenses, social network, and financial resources all impact their access to food, according to data from the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE). When students are concerned about where their next meal is coming from, food insecurity can lead to a lower GPA, poor mental health, and a limited social life.
A study completed by the National College Health Association in the Fall of 2022 suggested that almost 55 percent of the Western students who responded to a survey experienced low to very low food security. Since opening in February, the Mountaineer Marketplace has received 1,075 visits from 357 individuals.
In June 2023, Western was designated by the CDHE as a Hunger Free and Healthy Minds campus in recognition of its efforts to address mental health and hunger among the student population.
“National research indicates college students are often overlooked as a population experiencing food insecurity due to the socially accepted narrative that college students are expected to struggle financially, yet most people believe college students are supported by their parents,” Mathewson said. “With the rise in expenses nationwide, students in the Gunnison Valley are feeling the impact at a significant rate. I think it’s fair to say the cost of living in the Valley contributes to this.”
About Western Colorado University: Established in 1901, Western is a four-year public institution in Gunnison, Colo. that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in over 100 areas of study. Our campus on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains is home to more than 2,000 resident students, while approximately 1,600 additional students take courses at the University remotely
Author Credit: Seth Mensing
Photo Credit: Mason Schultz