New Student Co-Op opens with support from Kroger, Kraft Heinz

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The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, in partnership with Kroger and Kraft Heinz, proudly announces the launch of the Virginia Western Student Co-Op fueled by Kroger. This pioneering initiative, the first of its kind at a community college, is aimed at eliminating student food insecurity at Virginia Western as part of Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Plan.

The Student Co-Op became
available at the start of fall semester on Aug. 24 and the college hosted a
grand opening as part of student activities’ Warm Welcome event on Wednesday.
With its roots as a food pantry supported by faculty, staff and student
donations, the expanded Student Co-Op’s impact has already been tremendous, as
students have had consistent access to high-quality, healthy foods at no cost
to help them succeed in their studies.

“We pride ourselves within
Virginia’s Community Colleges on providing affordable, high-quality education
that opens doors for students. The reality is, despite the great value of our
education, it is estimated that as many as 50 percent of Virginia’s community
college students suffer from food insecurity,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel,
President of Virginia Western. “That means instead of concentrating on their
studies, these students are focused on a grumbling stomach or how they can
secure their family’s next meal. With the amazing support of partners Kroger
and Kraft Heinz, we intend to eliminate that barrier to success.”

Kroger’s
initial gift of $10,000 turned what was before just a few shelves of food into
a complete food pantry that now fills an entire office in the College’s Student
Life Center, complete with fresh paint and signage. The newly named Student
Co-Op also benefited from Kroger-donated shelving, reusable cinch sack food
bags and reusable water bottles.

Kroger executive David Dantzler,
a former Educational Foundation Board of Directors member, worked tirelessly to
bring the Student Co-Op to fruition, meeting with food pantry experts and
nutritionists to help develop a process and inventory to meet students’ needs.

“People don’t always consider
college students when thinking of groups who face hunger, but many of these students
are food insecure,” said Dantzler. “Establishing new partnerships and finding
creative ways to solve hunger in the community is the spirit of our Zero Hunger
Zero Waste commitment. We’re proud to stand with Kraft Heinz to bring food to
Virginia Western Community College students who are struggling to find their
next meal.”

Kraft Heinz joined Kroger with a
matching gift of $10,000 for the Student Co-Op. The Student Co-Op has been
outfitted with a Kraft Heinz-branded cooler to provide refrigerated foods.

“As part of its commitment to
Growing A Better World, Kraft Heinz is proud to partner with Kroger to help
raise awareness and ease the burden of food insecurity among students,” said
Doug Davis, head of field execution for the Kraft Heinz Company.

The Student Co-Op will be
managed through Virginia Westerns student services, operating on an honor
system with students logging their ID numbers to enter the space. The college
plans to expand this pilot program to continue building partnerships to fulfill
student needs.

A recent Ruffalo Noel Levitz
survey of incoming students in the Community College Access Program (CCAP)
found that 17 percent admit to food insecurity. That means, extrapolated to
Virginia Western’s overall student population and taking into account
state-reported figures, as many as 5,000 students may go hungry on campus every
day.

“With the support of Kroger and
Kraft Heinz, we now have an amazing opportunity to impact student success in a
way we never have before,” said Amanda Mansfield, Virginia Western’s
Philanthropy Director. “We truly believe that if we can fuel their bodies, we
can fuel their minds.”

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