What is the Magic Food Bus?
The Magic Food Bus is a mobile food pantry serving the students and staff at Middlesex Community College. Inspired by a similar pantry at Norwalk Community College, former Professor Judith Felton and Coordinator of Institutional Advancement Trenton Wright headed the effort to bring a mobile pantry to the Middlesex community. After purchasing a used school bus with grant funds, students from Vinal Technical High School renovated it and brought it to the Middletown campus.
Officially opened on September 21, 2016, the goal of the Magic Food Bus is to alleviate the challenges of food insecurity faced by college students and their families. The food pantry provides non-perishable and perishable items, pet supplies, personal hygiene products, and menstrual products. The Magic Food Bus partners with Connecticut Foodshare. The pantry is operated by student workers, volunteers, human service interns, and with substantial in-kind support from the college. The Magic Food Bus provides food bags to students for Thanksgiving and boxed lunches during each final exam week.
The Magic Food Bus has seen a dramatic increase in annual shoppers since it started. Since opening in 2016, the Magic Food Bus has served about 1,848 students, aided 5,909 household members, and distributed 30,523 units of food through June 2021. We expect to reach 283 students, 919 household members, and distribute 13,954 units of food for 2021–22 during the continuing pandemic.
Food bins are available to drop off donations in the following locations: Snow Hall, room 508; Wheaton Hall, in the office of the Business/Marketing programs; Founders Hall, in room 104; and Chapman Hall, in the library. Items typically provided are cereal, granola bars, water bottles, juice boxes, canned soup and vegetables, pasta, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, coffee, gluten-free foods, fruit cups, beans, and assorted toiletries.
In the late Spring 2018, the Magic Food Bus established the 7,000-square-foot Veterans Memorial Natural Garden on the main campus to provide healthy produce for food bus shoppers and the local Middletown food pantry. The garden is maintained by student workers and volunteers. Middlesex officially dedicated the former playground on October 16, 2019, honoring the college’s veterans.
In the spring of 2019, a satellite pantry opened at Platt High School in Meriden to coordinate with the college's evening course offerings there. The MFB@Platt is open Monday through Thursday evenings and food is transferred weekly from the main campus to this satellite operation.
The agencies, foundations, and municipal Magic Food Bus supporters include the City of Middletown, the City of Meriden, the CUNO Foundation, the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Cans-4-A-Cause, the Middlesex Community College Foundation, Connecticut Foodshare, Stop & Shop, the Fellowship Church, Newman’s Own Foundation, the Thomas J. Atkins Memorial Trust Fund, and the Rockfall Foundation. The Magic Food Bus has raised over $85,000 in grants and cash donations since it began.
During the most challenging time in the college’s history, the Magic Food Bus pivoted to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The food pantry switched to a contactless operation with pre-bagged groceries and doubled the number of items per month from 30 to 60. We conducted our first drive through a pop-up distribution event in the spring of 2021.
The pantry was closed from 3/13-8/26/2020 (6.5 months) due to the pandemic. We provided cash assistance to the Amazing Grace Food Pantry in Middletown. We also distributed about 70% of our existing food inventory to the Amazing Grace and the Salvation Army in Meriden. Students were encouraged to visit these local pantries. Classes resumed but available seats were reduced for on-ground classes by 79% resulting in a severe drop in students on campus. Shopper traffic is nearly back to normal during the Fall 2022 semester.
Our goal is to meet students where they are, and to ensure that all students have access to support services on campus and from home. Middlesex takes pride in the fact that we are reducing the stigma around asking for help, and that we can provide our students with the food resources they desperately need.
The Magic Food Bus in the News:
- New Food Pantry Provides for Staff, Students at Middlesex Community College (Hartford Courant)
- Connecticut Community Colleges Open Food Pantries for Students and Faculty (WNPR)
- United Way: MxCC Magic Food Bus opens for students facing food insecurity (Middletown Press)
- Magic Food Bus to feed hungry, offer food security at MxCC (Middletown Press)
- United Way: Community college students struggle with hunger, transportation (Middletown Press)
- Food Pantry on Wheels Coming To Middlesex Community College (Middletown Patch)
A survey of about 4,000 students across 10 community colleges nationwide found that more than half suffered from some level of food insecurity.
According to Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, roughly 10% of its 46.5 million adult clients are college students.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, we served about 380 unduplicated students from 48 communities (41% from Middletown CT), distributing a total of 4,303 units of food!
Make a Difference!
One in every seven Americans faces food insecurity. You can help change that.
The Magic Food Bus is funded in part through grants from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County and the City of Middletown and the generosity of many other individuals.