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posted: 3/8/2018 4:30 PM

Editorial: Suburban colleges show citizenship with anti-hunger efforts

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  • Members of the Elgin Community College branch of Phi Theta Kappa sort food as they help an on-campus pantry for students in need.

      Members of the Elgin Community College branch of Phi Theta Kappa sort food as they help an on-campus pantry for students in need.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Here's another reason to appreciate the value and contributions of local community colleges: the fight against hunger.

In a front-page Daily Herald story this week, our Madhu Krishnamurthy reported on the efforts many community colleges make to help ensure that low-income students get enough to eat.

McHenry County College's Purple Pantry program provides coupons enabling students who need food to eat in the cafeteria or pick up canned goods.

Elgin Community College opened its student-run Spartan Food Pantry three years ago and last year served more than 2,600 students -- almost double the number it served the in 2016.

The number is a far cry from the 60 students served last fall in a similar program at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, but COD officials say they know there is much need that is not being met. "(A survey last year) found that one in 10 of our students were either food insecure or knew somebody who was food insecure," adviser Shannon Hernandez told Krishnamurthy.

Harper College in Palatine launched a program, Harper Hawks Care, only last month offering food items, toiletries and school supplies to students in need. Other schools that operate such programs include Aurora University, College of Lake County in Grayslake and National Louis University, with sites in various suburbs.

It's intriguing to note that this level of community involvement is not exactly common among colleges in Illinois. The suburban sites are among only a few colleges statewide that operate these kinds of services routinely, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance.

We often praise the role our community colleges play in making high-quality post-secondary educational opportunities and job training available at costs most people can afford. They constantly prove themselves responsive to the academic needs and interests of adults throughout the suburbs. But they also sometimes play an impressive role as institutional citizens.

"We make a lot of referrals to local food pantries because when college isn't in session, students need to eat," Lena Kalemba, direct of health and wellness at MCC told Krishnamurthy.

Yes, the responsibilities of educators at all levels often extend well beyond the borders of their institutions. The role played by our community colleges -- and the many student and staff volunteers who do much of the work -- is one more reason to appreciate this thoughtful and responsive resource in our communities.

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