Food Insecurity Issue Inspires Alum’s Spouse to Donate

Food insecurity on community college campuses is often regarded as an invisible barrier to success in learning.

According to a recent national survey by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, “a fifth of students cut back on or skipped meals in the month prior to the survey because of costs. Almost a third of respondents ran out of food and didn’t have the money to buy more during that time.”

The USDA defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

In 2016, with help from college and community donors and volunteers, CT State Middlesex aimed to curtail this issue by establishing the Magic Food Bus pantry at the Middletown campus.

The idea of using a bus for a food pantry first came about by former Middlesex president Anna Wasescha and was brought to fruition by a team led by Judith Felton, former human services coordinator, and Trent Wright, coordinator of institutional advancement.

The college purchased a used school bus with grant funds, and students from nearby Vinal Technical High School renovated it and brought it to the Middletown campus.

“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,” said Professor Felton when the pantry first opened.

The Magic Food Bus is still in operation today, supported by generous individuals including Gloria Kozlowski of Berlin.

Gloria, a retired psychotherapist with a background in serving underserved populations, has consistently contributed to various charities throughout the years. However, following her husband’s passing in 2020, she redirected some of her donations to her town’s food pantry in his memory.

Jack KozlowskiOriginally from Cromwell, John “Jack” Kozlowski wasn’t sure what to study after high school, so he attended Middlesex Community College (now CT State Middlesex). He graduated with a general studies associate degree in 1971 and worked as a toolmaker in the defense industry for many years.

Drawing on her experience in providing mental health accommodations for students, including those from Middlesex, Gloria became aware of the food insecurity issue at colleges. When she learned about the Magic Food Bus pantry, she donated several boxes of muffin mix for Thanksgiving last year and 24 boxes of brownie mix this spring.

“I’ve been reading about food insecurity among students, and it makes me sad that people who are trying to improve themselves by getting educated might have to do without food,” she said. “The statistics were startling to me. So I decided to honor my husband by donating to his alma mater and switched to supporting CT State Middlesex and other colleges with food donations.”

According to Trent, the Magic Food Bus estimates a record year of food distribution for 2023–2024.

“We project serving about 1,890 students and family members, a 92% increase from last year,” said Trent. “We also project distributing 44,816 food items, a 99% increase from last year.”

Gloria said later in his life, Jack wanted to work as a counselor, so he enrolled in the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor (DARC) program administered through Manchester Community College. At that time, he also returned to Middlesex to attend classes before earning the certificate in 1996. Even though he became ill after that and couldn’t work as a counselor, Gloria said he still felt it was an accomplishment because he had the skills to do it.

“Donating to the Magic Food Bus pantry is a way to pay forward the gratitude that my husband felt when he was able to achieve his second college degree in an area that was meaningful to him,” Gloria added.

“Education is of value in itself,” she said.

To learn more about the Magic Food bus or to donate, please visit

April 2024
Story by Thea Moritz