Columbus State Helps Community and Students in Pandemic

Ohio – Nearly half of community college students in the U.S. struggle with food insecurity. In Ohio, the story is no different.

Cart by cart, Columbus State student Andrew Crowley loads up cars three days a week with fresh and pre-packaged food.

Crowley’s been working at the school’s Mid-Ohio Market since it opened last year. The architecture major is just grateful to be there.

“This is a amazing opportunity,” he said. “I’m humbled to be part of it.”

Grabbing some muffins and handfuls of diapers to bag up for the next car, Andrew said it’s more than a job; it’s about helping to lighten the burdens people face.

“Sometimes, they just need a smile, and you know you just give them that, and it can take them away from everything that’s going on,” Crowley said.

After working for a couple of hours, manager Matt Austin sends Crowley on a break to get his school work done. Grabbing a pallet of boxed goods out of a cooler, Austin said they’ve been helping about 1,500 to 2,000 families each month.

“That need is going up and really we saw right when COVID started in April,” Austin said. “There was a huge spike in need because unemployment took a while to kick in.”

But the biggest challenge is helping the nearly two-thirds of Columbus State students who don’t have the resources to get the food they need.

“You know it’s tricky with COVID, because you know they’re not on campus. So, we don’t have that opportunity to catch them as they’re leaving for the programming here.” Austin said.

While student need is on the rise, Austin acknowledged it’s also tough because younger people and singles are more resistant to seeking help. But for students like Crowley, who is taking his online classes inbetween working, being there is a blessing.

“As a student, it’s hard because we really don’t have a lot of money,” Crowley said. “So, we can, you can come to the food pantry any time and get food or the essentials that you need.”

While working here helps Crowley to survive, he said he just takes pride in knowing that he could help someone else to survive.

Austin said the Mid-Ohio Market is not only helping the community, but students to stay enrolled and graduate. As they help fill in the food insecurity gaps, they’re hoping to do more online programming as remote learning

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