JOPLIN, Mo. – MSSU’s Lion Co-Op has announced a new scholarship program to help students dealing with financial hardships or food insecurity.
The Groceries to Graduate program awards scholarships to 10-15 senior students who have demonstrated financial need. The scholarships come in the form of tokens that can be redeemed for fresh food items at the Webb City Farmers Market.
“It’s a partnership that the co-op staff believes will benefit not just students, but also local farmers and vendors,” according to Moso Minute.
The Lion Co-Op, located in the campus FEMA shelter, opened in November 2018 to assist students, faculty and staff dealing with food insecurity. The co-op provides pantry items, personal hygiene products and more.
“The Lion Co-Op is both a classroom and a food pantry on campus. At the food pantry level, what we try to do is provide emergency food and personal hygiene products to students, staff or faculty who might find themselves needing access to those,” said Dr. Megan Bever, associate professor of history and one of the faculty advisors for the Lion Co-op.
But providing essential items to those in need is not the only thing the co-op does. The “classroom” aspect of the co-op dives deeper to find the root of the food insecurity crisis.
“In addition to that, the co-op sponsors research projects and classes looking at food insecurity in university communities and just in the region itself,” said Bever.
The idea is to educate students, conduct research on the causes of food security and find systemic solutions, according to Bever.
“We’re as much about educating and conducting research as we are about meeting students’ immediate needs with a food pantry,” she said.
The Lion Co-Op is primarily for students who live on campus, while Groceries to Graduate is targeting students who live off-campus, with transportation, who might have access to a full kitchen and could use the scholarship support.
To determine potential scholarship recipients, the Lion Co-Op currently works with Financial Aid and the Institutional Effectiveness office. In the future, students will be able to apply for the scholarship through the Missouri Southern Foundation.
The Groceries to Graduate scholarship program is made possible by grants from the Spiva Cragin Foundation, the Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation, and the Ozark Area CROP Hunger Walk, according to Moso Minute.