STUDIES have shown that low food security among tertiary students is an often overlooked issue, although it can affect more than 25 per cent of the tertiary population. It is against this background that the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation has made a $1-million donation towards the GraceKennedy (GK) Campus Connect Food Bank, which is executed through the GraceKennedy Foundation (GKF).
The initiative serves to provide over 250 tertiary students with food packages monthly, in a bid to alleviate hunger in vulnerable students who are financially challenged.
"No student's educational pursuit should be hindered by hunger or poor nutrition, especially with the range of challenges that students already face while pursuing tertiary studies. Recognising the far-reaching impact that inadequate nutrition can have in educational outcomes, the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation is pleased to be a part of this food bank initiative led by GKF, alongside other corporate donors, to assist our future leaders to realise their greatness and achieve their dreams," shared Kim Mair, CEO of the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation.
This move is in line with the foundation's thrust to invest in education, having awarded $12.2 million in scholarships and bursaries to 65 students at the secondary and tertiary levels for the 2023/24 academic year, and supporting other educational projects.
GK Group CEO Don Wehby, who was also announced as the food bank's first patron earlier this year, said the outpouring of support from JMMB and other corporate partners is heartwarming, and demonstrates how collaborative efforts can go a long way in feeding the future.
"Because our university students represent the future of this nation. So many students go hungry, having to choose between paying their tuition and being able to afford adequate nutrition, and so I am happy to see this growing commitment from the private sector to address this aspect of their growth and development," Wehby said.
The food bank provides nutritional support to students enrolled at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), the University of Technology Jamaica, and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, since April 2019. To date, it has provided over 4,500 food packages to students in need, with a target of $28 million to support at least 400 students on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, Martinneil Bartley, vice-president of the Guild of Students at UWI, Mona commended the efforts the corporate entities supporting the food bank.
"Food insecurity is actually quite prominent on campus and the food bank is helping to minimise hunger for students and I know that the students [who benefit] truly appreciate this assistance," Bailey said.
The food bank is the brainchild of UWI undergraduate students Norval and Claudine Mendez, who conceptualised the initiative through their programme Hands Across the Hall Action Project, to provide food items for students living on halls of residence at The UWI. This project has now morphed into the food bank and is providing more support to students, following the duo approaching the GraceKennedy Foundation with a proposal to expand its reach and its embed its viability.