Initially developed five years ago as part of a student’s service-learning project, the Redlands Community College student food pantry opened its doors to meet the growing needs of its students who were experiencing food insecurity. Now, as one of six Oklahoma public colleges and universities selected to receive an inaugural grant through the Oklahoma Hunger-Free Campus Act pilot program, Redlands intends to expand the service and streamline the operation.
“Over the past five years, we have watched the demand increase for services provided by the food pantry, so we are looking forward to providing our students more food options and greater access to the pantry,” said Jena Marr, Redlands’ president.
With financial support from the Redlands Community College Foundation and donations from employees, the food pantry has been providing limited food and hygiene items to currently enrolled students. The grant will support the purchase of a commercial refrigerator to offer students perishable items, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy. Additional storage cabinets and shelving will be purchased to stock increased inventory, and a computer, printer and software will simplify the process for tracking inventory as well as the usage by students.
“We are very excited about the many ways this grant will benefit our students and the food pantry,” said Dr. Jennifer Alt, executive director of student services and grants. “Expanding our inventory and hours of operation will alleviate a burden for our students experiencing food insecurity, allowing them to focus on academic success.”
In addition to the funding through the Oklahoma Hunger-Free Campus Act pilot program, Redlands also received a grant through the Red River Community Corps for a full-time AmeriCorps Vista position. The AmeriCorps member is managing the food pantry and connecting students with other partners who can provide valuable assistance.
Rep. Pae, R-Lawton, authored HB 3417 in the 2022 regular session to combat hunger at higher education institutions. The bill led to an increase in the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s FY23 budget allocation to fund the Hunger-Free Campus Act, a pilot program coordinated as a joint effort of the State Regents and the RFBO.
Oklahoma City Community College, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, Redlands Community College, Rose State College, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Tulsa Community College were selected to receive Hunger-Free Campus Act pilot program grants. Each campus will receive a grant award of $26,667.
The purpose of the program is to address post-secondary student hunger by leveraging more sustainable solutions to address basic food needs on campuses, raising and enhancing awareness of services currently offered on campuses that address basic food needs, and cultivating strategic partnerships at the local, state and national levels to address food insecurity among students.
Six public higher education institutions were recognized as grant award recipients through the Oklahoma Hunger-Free Campus Act pilot program, a joint effort of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Pictured, left to right: President Jena Marr, Redlands Community College; President Mautra Jones, Oklahoma City Community College; Beth Rogers, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology; Rep Daniel Pae; Chancellor Allison D. Garrett; Dr. Monique Bruner, Rose State College; Rep. Mark McBride; Dr. Greg Stone, Tulsa Community College; and President Diana Lovell, Southwestern Oklahoma State University.