New grants will help alleviate hunger at four community colleges
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges recently selected four community colleges to participate in a new free/reduced-price meal pilot project. The project aims to help hungry college students stay in college and graduate.
The four colleges —Columbia Basin College (Pasco), Everett Community College, Grays Harbor College (Aberdeen) and Walla Walla Community College — will each receive up to $240,000 per year for three years to provide free and low-cost meal plans or food vouchers to eligible low-income students.
The Legislature established the pilot program under House Bill 1559 and charged the State Board with choosing four colleges for funding. Twenty-five of Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges applied for the limited grants in a highly competitive process, underscoring the need to address hunger on college campuses.
According to a 2023 report by the Washington Student Achievement Council, nearly two out of every five — or 39% — of community or technical college students who responded to a survey had experienced food insecurity in the prior month. To measure food insecurity, students were asked whether they ran out of food, lacked balanced meals, cut meal sizes or skipped meals, or went hungry due to costs.
Jennifer Dellinger, student services policy associate with the State Board, said food insecurity is a college-completion issue. “It’s almost impossible to concentrate on studies when you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to eat that day,” she said. “This pilot project will help students stay focused and graduate. We are grateful to the Legislature for recognizing that food and other living expenses are also educational expenses.”
In past years, the state Legislature has also provided grant funding to help college students experiencing financial emergencies and homelessness.