Critical hunger relief efforts will be further expanded at Virginia’s Community Colleges to assist more students in need thanks to a renewed gift of $150,000 from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation to the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation and the VFCCE identified food insecurity among Virginia’s community college students as a priority issue in late 2018. This partnership led to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation’s initial grant investment to the VFCCE in 2019 resulting in the establishment or expansion of vital emergency food programs at rural college campuses.
As a result, nearly 90,000 students enrolled at community colleges throughout the state had access to needed food and resources, including students at the three community colleges that introduced new programs because of the grant.
“Virginia communities have been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and the work our nonprofit partners are doing is vital as communities look ahead to their recovery,” said Jennie Reynolds, president, Anthem Virginia’s Medicaid Plan. “Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to improving lives and communities by helping meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations and support organizations who continue their work on the frontlines addressing areas that were severely impacted by the pandemic. Food insecurity continues to affect Virginia and is associated with some of the most serious and costly chronic health problems. It remains important that we continue to identify ways to address this serious issue in our communities where help is needed and can be readily accessed.”
Support for these programs comes at a critical time as food insecurity levels are on the rise nationwide. According to a recent report from Feeding America, about 3.3 million American households were identified as food-insecure in 2019. Dramatic coronavirus-related job losses have pushed that number to 9.9 million families in jeopardy, with a projected spike to 17.1 million by the end of the 2020 calendar year as unemployment benefits expire.
Families with children and those in rural areas with fewer available jobs are disproportionately at risk.
These food programs have found creative ways to continue to serve students during pandemic-related campus closures, including drive-through or curbside assistance and access to food pantries by appointment, and have served as an important connection point for the community.
The success of the existing partnership, its impact on the health and security of students across the Commonwealth, and the growing need for additional emergency support prompted a renewed investment from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation in the VFCCE.
“Continued partnership with the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation allows us to help students who are currently struggling with the economic effects of coronavirus,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Anthem’s generous support also will enable new, targeted initiatives designed to help students succeed in their training programs and reach their career goals.”
As part of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation’s ongoing efforts to target specific, preventable health concerns, the renewed partnership with the VFCCE will also help to fund an in-depth survey of needs among students at Virginia’s Community Colleges. HopeLab, a social innovation lab focused on designing science-based technologies to improve the health and well-being of teens and young adults, will conduct the survey.
This study will serve as a resource for creating future initiatives to address specific challenges, helping to boost student achievement and aid their attainment of valuable career-building credentials.
Thanks to this investment from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, food emergency programs will further expand at 14 of Virginia’s Community Colleges as soon as the Fall 2020 semester.
All 23 community colleges will have an opportunity to access funding, but colleges immediately impacted include:
- Blue Ridge Community College, in Weyers Cave
- Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge
- Danville Community College
- Eastern Shore Community College
- Lord Fairfax Community College in Winchester
- Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap
- New River Community College in Dublin
- Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville
- Paul D. Camp Community College in Franklin
- Rappahannock Community College on the Northern Neck
- Southside Community College in Alberta
- Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands
- Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon
- Wytheville Community College