Minnesota State College Southeast has been awarded up to $572,000 to reimburse 50% of the college’s expenses in providing support services to students who receive SNAP benefits.

SNAP -- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families, so they can purchase healthful food and move toward self-sufficiency.

“So many students are in need. The cost of education has gone up. It’s hard to work and go to school at the same time, and employment options are closed off right now due to COVID-19,” said Josiah Litant, MSC Southeast vice president of student affairs and dean of students. “We can make sure that people are knowledgeable about the funding available through SNAP and have help in accessing those resources. We are trying to destigmatize these critical supports, as we work to help students on a path towards greater independent financial stability.”

When students don’t complete their education, it’s often because of outside pressures such as finances, food insecurity, child care, access to housing and transportation, or other non-academic issues, the college said. Because of the SNAP partnership, MSC Southeast will be able to invest much more in support services to help students overcome these challenges and graduate with the skills they need to find employment.

“The money we are getting through this grant will not just be used to support SNAP students. While we will invest in supports for that population, we can actually use the funds broadly and the college will be investing them in programming, staffing, and outreach to support many of our student needs,” Litant explained.

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This fall, Minnesota State College Southeast also received funding from Winona and Goodhue counties in the form of SHIP or Statewide Health Improvement Partnership grants to enable the college to renovate and expand the free food pantries on its Red Wing and Winona campuses. This will allow the self-serve food pantries to offer a greater variety of food, especially more fresh foods and vegetables.

In addition, the college has opened a new AmeriCorps position for a basic needs outreach coordinator. The person will work on food insecurity prevention efforts, support student access to MNSure, facilitate transportation services, and explore funding opportunities for basic needs services (for more information to apply, see www.southeastmn.edu/HR).

“All of these partnerships and grants are helping us in our mission to ensure student success at Southeast,” Litant said. “We are building a structure that will support students in moving out of poverty and into a better life.”