"Students who experience food insecurity have the same desires as everyone else to change their lives through the power of education and positively contribute to their communities and the world at large. Once we address their most basic needs, we see them thrive." – President Christina Royal
Editor's Note: At the Nov. 4 grand opening celebration of HCC"s Homestead Market, President Christina Royal gave an address about food insecurity. Her remarks were adapted into a commentary that was published in both CommonWealth Magazine and the Springfield Republican newspaper.
By CHRISTINA ROYAL
Whenever I talk about food insecurity I ask people to take a moment and think about how it feels to be hungry. I mean, really hungry. Not just like you're running late for lunch, but what it means to miss a meal. To miss an entire day of eating. Could you write a term paper? Could you ace a test? Could you engage in a meaningful conversation with your academic advisor about your future?
Now, in addition to being hungry, imagine that you are also not sure where your next meal will come from. Do you think you could focus enough to get to class? Sometimes people respond that students just need to build some resiliency, dig deep and push through. But what if there's nothing to tap into because your body is so depleted from lack of nourishment?
Many students at Holyoke Community College don't have to imagine this scenario. They're living it.
In 2020, we learned from a basic needs survey that 46 percent our students experience low or very low levels of food security. Half of all the respondents said that they can't afford to eat balanced meals.
This was pre-pandemic, and we know that the pandemic has exacerbated a lot of these basic needs issues.
At HCC, we have made it a priority to address these non-academic barriers, which can fundamentally cripple a student's ability to succeed in the classroom.
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Thumbnail) HCC president Christina Royal talks before the opening of Homestead Market. (Above) Andrew Moorehouse, director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, President Royal, state Rep. Pat Duffy and state Sen. John Velis, during the grand opening of Homestead Market.