Middletown, Conn.—Middlesex Community College opened the doors to its new “Magic Food Bus” with a grand opening ceremony today (Sept. 21) at noon in the lower parking lot on campus, the pantry’s permanent location. The Magic Food bus is a free food pantry serving MxCC students and staff.
Students, staff and volunteers brought food donations and joined Human Services Coordinator Judith Felton who—along with MxCC President Anna Wasescha and a diverse team of volunteers—worked hard to make the dream of a healthy campus community become a reality. For the ribbon cutting, they were joined by Alice Pritchard, chief of staff at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, and Jason Ebbeling, executive director of CSCU Student Success Center.
With inspiration from a similar pantry at another community college, Professor Felton took on the challenge of addressing the impact of food insecurity on the MxCC campus. The USDA defines food insecurity as the lack of nutritional food. According to a recent study at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the ability buy food is a problem for 52 percent of students at community colleges.
“If students are hungry, their ability to study or even want to come to school is going to be compromised. It impacts retention rates, because students will choose to get another job in order to put food on the table rather than go to school,” explains Professor Felton.
To make it a positive and fun experience, President Wasescha came up with the idea to use a school bus as a food pantry. A former “party bus” acquired by the college from Dattco last spring, students from Vinal Technical High School (who also attended the grand opening) renovated the interior and prepped the exterior for it to be painted with a magical theme. Many other individuals and partners provided extensive support including St. Vincent DePaul Amazing Grace Food Pantry of Middletown, United Way, Liberty Bank, plus grants from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County and the City of Middletown Community Block Grant programs.
The project also encourages MxCC students to be volunteers who learn to become leaders and entrepreneurs while managing the program. Sarah Lombardo, a human services student from Middletown, is helping to manage the pantry as part of her internship. “It’s exciting to work with community members and see the local support become real,” she said.
The Magic Food bus is open throughout the academic year: Monday 3 to 5 p.m.; Wednesday noon to 5 p.m.; Tuesday; and Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. MxCC students and staff with ID are eligible for 10 free items per visit, twice a month. Anyone from the college or local community is welcome to donate nonperishable food items by contacting Professor Felton at email@example.com.
Celebrating 50 years as “the college of its community,” Middlesex Community College (www.mxcc.edu) is part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. Since 1966, MxCC has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. MxCC offers more than 60 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, the downtown Meriden Center, and online.