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Addressing Food Insecurities Among Students

According to the College & University Food Bank Alliance, 36 percent of college students experience food insecurity while nine percent are homeless. 

These daunting numbers highlight an important but often overlooked national emergency: many American college students cannot meet their own basic needs and are living on the edge of poverty.

“Being a college student is stressful enough without adding food and housing insecurity and overall financial instability,” notes Jillian Keller, director of Cleveland State University’s Lift Up Vikes! Resource Center and Food Pantry. 

In an effort to address this pressing issue, Cleveland State created Lift Up Vikes! in 2016. Over the last three years, the program has distributed over 130,000 pounds of food to CSU students, and morphed from a food pantry into a full service resource center that provides a wide range of education and training programs as well as emergency grants to help students deal with unforeseen financial setbacks. The program also provides lockers and a mailing address for housing insecure students and works closely with a wide variety of Cleveland service organizations to help students get the additional services they need. 

Lift Up Vikes! will soon move into a new, centrally-located campus location, thanks to a $1 million gift from Cleveland philanthropists Char and Chuck Fowler. (See sidebar.) The funds also supported the expansion of the resource center and the creation of an emergency fund, which provides small grants to students who experience unforeseen expenses that could negatively impact their ability to pay rent or continue to stay enrolled in school. The grant cannot be used for tuition or books, and is paid directly to the creditor, not the student.

Keller stresses that the program still needs continued support for the food pantry, which relies on small and medium-sized monetary donations that are used to purchase food at a discounted rate from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. 

“We are extremely thankful to the Fowlers for their tremendous generosity in expanding the pantry and creating an emergency fund. Now we need to make sure we can keep the shelves full with nutritious food. Just $1 purchases five pounds of food, so every donation really does make an impact,” she adds.

To learn more about the programs provided by Lift Up Vikes! or to donate, please visit   

Helping Students in Need

A $1 million gift from Cleveland philanthropists Char and Chuck Fowler is supporting the vital work of the University’s Lift Up Vikes! Program, which helps students surmount barriers to academic success, such as hunger and homelessness.

The gift enables CSU to expand Lift Up Vikes! by renovating space in Ronald Berkman Hall (formerly Main Classroom) and relocating the pantry and resource center from the Recreation Center. This more than triples its size and capacity to serve at-risk students. 

In addition, the Fowlers’ gift creates a year-round emergency fund to assist students with unforeseen expenses that, if not quickly resolved, could lead to them dropping out of school – expenses like car repairs, doctor or dental bills, child care or utility shut-offs. 

“This emergency fund is hugely needed,” notes President Harlan Sands. “For many CSU students, even a small, unexpected expense can mean the difference between staying in school or dropping out. These emergency grants help fill a very real need on our campus.”

“Cleveland State graduates are the future of Northeast Ohio,” says Char Fowler. “We are honored to partner with the University in removing some of the obstacles to success that prevent students from earning a degree. Our greatest joy is hearing the words ‘you made a difference.’”

to be replaced

In a chemical engineering laboratory in the heart of Fenn Hall, a team of mathematics and engineering students and faculty begin an expirement that could enhance food safety. Read more >>

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