The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, in partnership with Kroger and Kraft Heinz, proudly announces the launch of the Virginia Western Student Co-Op fueled by Kroger. This pioneering initiative, the first of its kind at a community college, is aimed at eliminating student food insecurity at Virginia Western as part of Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Plan.
The Student Co-Op became available at the start of fall semester on Aug. 24 and the college hosted a grand opening as part of student activities’ Warm Welcome event on Wednesday. With its roots as a food pantry supported by faculty, staff and student donations, the expanded Student Co-Op’s impact has already been tremendous, as students have had consistent access to high-quality, healthy foods at no cost to help them succeed in their studies.
“We pride ourselves within Virginia’s Community Colleges on providing affordable, high-quality education that opens doors for students. The reality is, despite the great value of our education, it is estimated that as many as 50 percent of Virginia’s community college students suffer from food insecurity,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “That means instead of concentrating on their studies, these students are focused on a grumbling stomach or how they can secure their family’s next meal. With the amazing support of partners Kroger and Kraft Heinz, we intend to eliminate that barrier to success.”
Kroger’s initial gift of $10,000 turned what was before just a few shelves of food into a complete food pantry that now fills an entire office in the College’s Student Life Center, complete with fresh paint and signage. The newly named Student Co-Op also benefited from Kroger-donated shelving, reusable cinch sack food bags and reusable water bottles.
Kroger executive David Dantzler, a former Educational Foundation Board of Directors member, worked tirelessly to bring the Student Co-Op to fruition, meeting with food pantry experts and nutritionists to help develop a process and inventory to meet students’ needs.
“People don’t always consider college students when thinking of groups who face hunger, but many of these students are food insecure,” said Dantzler. “Establishing new partnerships and finding creative ways to solve hunger in the community is the spirit of our Zero Hunger Zero Waste commitment. We’re proud to stand with Kraft Heinz to bring food to Virginia Western Community College students who are struggling to find their next meal.”
Kraft Heinz joined Kroger with a matching gift of $10,000 for the Student Co-Op. The Student Co-Op has been outfitted with a Kraft Heinz-branded cooler to provide refrigerated foods.
“As part of its commitment to Growing A Better World, Kraft Heinz is proud to partner with Kroger to help raise awareness and ease the burden of food insecurity among students,” said Doug Davis, head of field execution for the Kraft Heinz Company.
The Student Co-Op will be managed through Virginia Westerns student services, operating on an honor system with students logging their ID numbers to enter the space. The college plans to expand this pilot program to continue building partnerships to fulfill student needs.
A recent Ruffalo Noel Levitz survey of incoming students in the Community College Access Program (CCAP) found that 17 percent admit to food insecurity.
“With the support of Kroger and Kraft Heinz, we now have an amazing opportunity to impact student success in a way we never have before,” said Amanda Mansfield, Virginia Western’s Philanthropy Director. “We truly believe that if we can fuel their bodies, we can fuel their minds.”