By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer

One of the corporate partners from Bowie State University’s athletic conference is making a contribution so that students won’t go hungry on campus. Food Lion, which has been a long time supporter of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), partnered with Prince George’s County’s Historically Black university to establish the Bowie State Nutrition Lounge that will provide a place for students, especially commuters, to nourish themselves and increase academic performance.

After a $10,000 donation from Food Lion Feeds, the organization’s hunger relief program, the retail supermarket chain established and equipped a space in the lobby of the university’s library, right on the verge of the annual CIAA Basketball Tournament. Bowie State is the sixth CIAA school that will benefit from the Food Lion Feeds program that started in 2015. There are other pantries at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. which is host city of the tournament for the last time this week before it moves to Baltimore for a three-year run beginning in 2021.

Bowie State students Sharif Coombs (left) and David Medley (right) take advantage of fresh food options on campus through a new Food Lion Food Pantry program that launched recently. (Courtesy Photo)

“Students should be focused on learning, not where their next meal will come from,” said Jason Bullock, Food Lion director of operations in  Bowie. “Caring for our neighbors in the towns and cities we serve is important to us, so we’re excited about this new space to help nourish the Bowie State community.”

Bowie State is collaborating with the Capital Area Food Bank and the local Food Lion store to ensure the lounge regularly stocked and follows food safety standards. The BSU Nutrition Lounge expects to provide fresh produce, and shelves full of non-perishable items as well as  present nutrition education, tables and chairs, couches and microwaves in the school’s library.

“This gift from Food Lion Feeds, along with the ongoing partnership of Food Lion and Capital Area Food Bank, will make an incredible difference for our Bowie State students, who sometimes struggle to afford healthy food options,” said Brent Swinton, vice president of institutional advancement. “The nourishment and healthy foods provided in the Nutrition Lounge will empower our students to advance their academic success and personal well-being.”

Last April a Hope Foundation study found that “food insecurity” is a common issue among college students. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

The study reports 45 percent of college students who participated in the survey of more than 100 institutions said they had gone hungry in the last 30 days.  More than half of survey respondents from two-year institutions and 44 percent of students from four-year institutions worried about running out of food. Nearly half of the student respondents also reported they couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.  It was also discovered that many students only eat one meal per day at BSU. Officials at the university believe having a lounge with fresh produce would allow them to receive a healthy snack during long days on campus. 

Other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) including: North Carolina’s Livingstone College in Salisbury, Fayetteville State University and Winston-Salem State University, as well as Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va., have also received support from the food chain.