Canan food security scholarship aids students

Canan food scholarship for food insecure students


Bridget Reilly

Salad bar options in Mesquite Dining Hall include a colorful pasta salad and corn dish. Jan 22. Photo by Bridget Reilly

The Canan Food Security Program is offering food insecure students an opportunity to get meals in Mesquite Dining Hall or Mavericks Corner.

As of January students are able to apply to the program and no longer have the burden of not knowing where their next meal will come from.

Pat Canan, Wichita Falls businessman and scholarship donor, said, “There was actually, maybe a year ago, an article about food insecurity on campus and also across the state and the nation. So I started doing some research on organizations that study food insecurity at college campuses and the more I read the more I realize that it was probably a problem at Midwestern like [it is] at other places.”

Canan was initially trying to do a scholarship for the art department on campus, however after talking to Steve Hilton, associate professor of Juanita and Ralph Harvey School of Visual Arts, the idea of a food scholarship bloomed.

“I had been doing [food insecurity] research and in the middle of the conversation I asked [Steve Hilton and Martin Camacho] what they would think about a campus wide scholarship. Not just based on scholarship as far as grades but a true need for food security. They were initially a little taken a back because they hadn’t really thought about that. But the more they research the more excited everyone got. It kind of changed from a scholarship based on merit to a scholarship based on need. We wanted to try to impact as many students as we could, not just one or two,” Canan said.

As a college student, Hilton also struggled with wondering where his next meal would come from.

Hilton said, “There were times where I didn’t eat as well as I should have. There were times when I wrote a check, knowing it was gonna bounce, that it was gonna cost me $10 extra for a bag of groceries. I was like much of these students, I worked 30-40 hours a week. I didn’t have any support from my family so it’s not any different than it is now. Ramen noodles. Mac and cheese. Generic mac and cheese was the food of choice because it was only a quarter for a box. If you ever bought Kraft mac and cheese you knew you were going uptown because it was always 33 cents a box.”

Hilton said he has seen food insecurity problems in his students and said he hopes that they will get the help they need through the new program.

“I see students come to class hungry. They might only have enough money for lunch for a candy bar from the snack machine. They’re not eating nutritiously but they can afford a bag of chips for a dollar. I see what they eat for breakfast for lunch and for dinner because I’m in the studio a lot. I can’t see how they’re doing their best work if they’re hungry,” Hilton said.

Students can apply at anytime to the program via MustangsLink.

Keith Lamb, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, said, “Right now since the program is so new, there are two of us and we typically review them together. It’s myself and my assistant Laura Salazar. When an application comes in through MustangsLink Laura will get the initial financial aid information for us . . . Laura and I will sit down and kinda go over everything and make an initial decision on, Does this look like we need to go ahead and extend some meals and get them to financial aid counseling? Then we just go from there.”

If it’s determined that the student is food insecure, they are given 10 additional meal swipes to use at Maverick’s Corner or the Mesquite Dining Hall. An additional appointment is set up with a financial aid counselor to determine the amount of any further assistance that the student needs. The students will receive other forms of financial aid to aid their situation.

Lamb said he hopes this will be a multi-year program and are looking for more future donors. He is humbled by the generosity of Canan and is grateful MSU can help its students in any way.

The meals provided via the program are through Chartwells food service, the company will not be profiting from the program. They have decided to offer the meals at-cost, meaning each meal granted will only be $5.

Lamb said he hopes to help as many students as possible since the meal swipes will be cheaper than Chartwells meal plans.

“This entire program is about helping people.”

— Keith Lamb

The students that receive aid from this program do not have to be students that are stricken by traumatic situations, anyone that doesn’t have enough money in their budget for food can benefit from this program.

Cynthia Cummings, special events coordinator, said, “I’m really pleased with the program and I’m proud to be an MSU employee, because we do care about our students. And you know in the long run, they are probably going to be the leaders of our community so we need to help them along the way so they can focus on schoolwork and not worry about being hungry.”