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Broward College Receives Almost $400,000 Grant To Help Students Experiencing Food Insecurity

John O'Connor
State Impact Florida

Broward College announced Wednesday that it received nearly $400,000 in grant funding to assist students who may be facing food insecurity. The Florida Blue Foundation granted the college $377,000 to use over the next four years to build three food pantries, one on each campus.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the college had plans in the works to open a food pantry, but the efforts slowed down when campuses closed last March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Broward College found, in a February 2020 survey administered to students, that about 28% of them were experiencing food insecurity. About 14% said they were experiencing some kind of housing insecurity.

“We conducted a post-pandemic, during the summer, survey for our students and to find out what was the impact of the pandemic of COVID in their lives,” said Esmeralda Sweeney, the associate vice president of student success at Broward College. “72 percent of the students that answered the survey were experiencing some sort of insecurity in terms of food and housing.”

According to Sweeney, they are one of the few colleges without a food pantry.

Broward College applied for the Florida Blue Foundation grant after it was recommended they do so.

“Everything before the pandemic, we already had it [in mind] and the college was putting funding and allocating resources to open the food pantry,” said Sweeney. “So now, thanks to the Florida Blue grant, we're going to be able to actually just do that.”

The first food pantry — called Seahawk Marketplace — will open in the fall at the A. Hugh Adams Central Campus in Davie. The pantries in the North Campus in Cypress Creek, and the Judson A. Samuels South Campus in Miramar, will open in the coming years.

The first payment of the grant took place Jan. 15 and the final payment is scheduled for August 2024. The Seahawk Marketplace will also offer hygiene products to students at no cost.

Broward College holds drive-through food distribution sites for their students every week through a partnership with the organization LifeNet4Families.

“Perhaps it's because of these basic insecurities … they're in class and they cannot concentrate because they're not eating or they're living out of their car,” said Sweeney. “We knew [the pandemic] was really hitting everyone really hard, then it really brings it home when you see the numbers as well — that it’s not just anecdotal testimonials.”

Sherrilyn Cabrera is WLRN's PM newscast and digital producer.
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