Indiana food pantry reaching out to hungry college students

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — College students have enough worries as it is, so an Indiana food pantry is trying to help them focus on their studies rather than how to put food on their plates.

Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College and Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana has announced the opening of the Gleaners Hamilton County Cupboard food pantry at Ivy Tech in Noblesville.

"Our most important goal by far is student success," Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech, told the Indianapolis Star. "Students can't succeed when they're hungry, and we know that a large number of students, particularly community college students, have challenges with food insecurity."

The food pantry is open to any Hamilton County resident in need, but organizers said they decided to put it on campus to make sure students who can't afford to buy all the groceries they need know that they're welcome. So, too will the 300 nontraditional students a year working toward their high school diplomas at the Goodwill Excel Center, which is also on the Ivy Tech campus.

The campus is also within walking distance of other facilities that are expected to refer clients to the pantry, including the Noblesville Boys & Girls Club, a senior citizens center, three low-income apartment communities and the Hamilton County Jail.

At least one study has shown that many students are forced to skip meals to pay for housing, child care and utilities, and officials say keeping a student fed might just keep them in school.

"If we can feed Ivy Tech and Goodwill Excel Center students all the way through graduation, it significantly increases the chance of graduation and increases their employment opportunities," said John Elliott, president and CEO of Gleaners.

Elliott said he hopes to address another need: health care. He said he hopes to provide with a health care provider to open a clinic adjacent to the pantry, similar to the clinic that St. Vincent Hospital operates at Gleaner's Community Cupboard in Indianapolis.

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