(MAHWAH, NJ) -- The State of New Jersey recently recognized Ramapo College for its all hands-on-deck approach to meeting the needs of its students. The State awarded the College a $51,000 Hunger-Free Campus Grant in recognition of its demonstrated success in helping to address food insecurity and expand related resources and student relief efforts.
“We are so honored and pleased to use the awarded grant funds to further student well-being at Ramapo,” said President Cindy Jebb. Some of the steps the College will take include adding more bus routes to take students to a local farmer’s market, expanding offerings of food and supplies in its Food Pantry, promoting more healthy food options, issuing gift cards to local supermarkets, and increasing the amount of funds available to subsidize meal costs for students in need.
In 2016, Ramapo College was among the first institutions in the state to begin formally exploring and documenting college student health, hunger, and mobility issues as well as homelessness. At that time, the College’s Student Government Association formed a tight-knit working group and took the lead on identifying potential stakeholders, contributors, and the most essential forms of support to meet the needs of their peers who were confronting such hardships. “In addition to providing our students with much needed resources, this grant award also reaffirms the importance of student leadership at Ramapo and our demonstrable success in developing responsible leaders, empathetic problem solvers, and ethical change agents,” Jebb added.
Stephan Lally graduated from Ramapo College in 2020. While a student, Lally served as President of the Student Government Association and was one of the lead architects of the College’s student relief efforts during his undergraduate experience. Lally, who now serves as an advisor in the state capital shared, “I am delighted to see Ramapo receive a grant award from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education’s Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program. This is a product of years of hard work from students, staff, and faculty across the College. The WeCare program is instrumental in helping Roadrunners complete their degrees and this funding will only increase its impact on campus.”
Through an empathetic vision, bold leadership, and broad collaboration with the College’s administration, union leaders, faculty, staff, and donors, the student-led effort quickly attracted the attention of state legislators. In early 2017, Ramapo students were invited to testify as part of the Senate Higher Education Committee and Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee Joint Hearing to Discuss Hunger Among College Students. Within that same year, the student-led efforts yielded the establishment of the Ramapo College WeCare Program which continues to be an integral part of the College’s holistic approach to addressing student well-being. The WeCare Program is overseen by Melissa Van Der Wall, the College’s Dean of Students/Vice President for Student Well-being, and a team of professionals in the Center for Student Involvement, has grown over the past several years to now include a student financial relief fund, food pantry, clothing closet, and technology/equipment provisions.
“Food insecurity among the college-going population has been on the rise nationally since 2019 and these hardships have only been magnified by the pandemic,” said Van Der Wall. “At Ramapo we know that food insecurity affects the health, well-being, and academic performance of our students, and we are committed to doing all we can to mitigate these challenges by providing our students with the necessary resources and a supportive and safe environment to grow and thrive.”
For more information about how you can support these efforts and Ramapo College students in need, please visit the College’s WeCare Program at ramapo.edu/ccec/we-care-program/.