The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation presented the 2020 Community College Impact Award to Kroger, in recognition of its monetary and gift in-kind support to advance the fight against student food insecurity. The award was to have been presented publicly on March 25, 2020, at the Educational Foundation’s Annual Scholarship and Awards Ceremony, which was cancelled in accordance with measures to support public health and safety.  The Educational Foundation is pleased to share the announcement today.

One of the highest honors the College can bestow, the Community College Impact Award serves to recognize significant philanthropic and community support by individuals, corporations or organizations that will provide perpetuating benefits for Virginia Western, its students and the region at large.

Virginia Western Community College dedicated the Virginia Western Student Co-op, fueled by Kroger in September 2019 in recognition of Kroger’s visionary stance in fighting student hunger, and for their collaborative support in bringing additional partner Kraft Heinz to join the venture. Pioneering the Co-op was the first initiative of its kind at a community college for both national organizations, and is a result of the focus held by Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Plan.

With its roots as a food pantry supported by faculty, staff and student donations, the expanded Student Co-Op’s impact has already served nearly 300 students in more than 1,500 individual visits with access to high-quality, healthy foods at no cost to help them succeed in their studies. 

“Hunger has many faces.  While Virginia’s Community Colleges are proud to provide affordable, high-quality education, it is estimated that, despite the savings we offer, as many as 50 percent of Virginia’s community college students still suffer from food insecurity,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “That means instead of concentrating on their studies, these students are focusing on decisions they shouldn’t have to make – cutting the size of meals or skipping meals because there isn’t enough money for food.  Thanks to the untiring efforts and support of Kroger, we are eliminating this roadblock to success.  It is our privilege to present Virginia Western’s 2020 Community Impact Award to Kroger.”

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 Student Co-Op also benefited from Kroger-donated shelving, reusable cinch sack food bags and reusable water bottles.  Ongoing food purchasing continues.

Kroger executive David Dantzler, a former and current 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 at the Co-op Grand Opening. “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 bring food to Virginia Western Community College students who are struggling to find their next meal.”

For more information about the Foundation’s annual Community Impact Award or the Virginia Western Student Co-op, fueled by Kroger, contact Philanthropy Director Amanda Mansfield at amansfield@virginiawestern.edu or (540) 857-6962.