The Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), today announced that four institutions of higher education—Colorado State University, Colorado State University Pueblo, Fort Lewis College, and Metropolitan State University of Denver have earned Hunger Free and Healthy Minds designations for their work to end hunger and address the mental health needs of their students.
This comes after the release of the Department’s Hunger Free and Healthy Minds Campus Checklists to encourage the state’s postsecondary intuitions of higher education to apply for Hunger Free and Healthy Minds campus designations.
Colorado colleges and universities used the checklists to implement four core programs and six focused initiatives to receive a hunger free or healthy minds designation.
“It’s so important that Colorado higher-education institutions in Pueblo, Fort Collins, Durango, and Denver are stepping up to help their students and communities and we encourage others to do the same,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “Colorado is breaking down barriers and stigmas and making it easier for students to focus on learning by working to erase hunger and provide mental health services.”
The four campuses receiving a Hunger Free designation all operate food pantries, provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment assistance, hold at least one food security awareness event per year, and collect and report on student food insecurity. For instance, FLC hosts at least one food security awareness event each year, often a campus-wide food drive. This year the Grub Hub is collaborating with their Environmental Center and Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to host "Drag Me to Mother Earth," a drag show that focuses on sustainability and food security and benefits the campus pantry through donations. Grub Hub will distribute free food at this event.
"We know that mental health needs are increasing and are aware that too many students lack access to basic securities, so we are proud to work together on campus and with our off-campus partners to ensure that students are supported and empowered in these areas," says Kendra Gallegos Reichle, assistant director of student wellness and training for the FLC Counseling Center.
The four campuses receiving a Healthy Minds designation all include mental health resources on course syllabi or on the back of all new student ID cards. Students at FLC are introduced to mental health programming at New Student Orientation with the presentation of "Elephant in the Room," a theatrical production that touches on topics such as mental health, suicide prevention, sexual assault, relationships, substance abuse, and more. FLC hosts Fresh Check Day on campus every fall, which is an interactive suicide prevention health fair that involves students and professional departments from across campus. WellPAC also offers several mental health awareness events each year including alcohol and cannabis screenings, De-Stress Fest, trauma-informed training, World Suicide Prevention Day, and more.
“We are extremely proud of the four campuses receiving Hunger Free and Healthy Minds designations today,” said Dr. Angie Paccione, CDHE executive director. “These campuses are working hard to ensure their students have the necessary supports and resources to be healthy, fulfilled, and engaged citizens. They are true Colorado leaders and innovators in this work.”
The state’s plan for higher education, Colorado Rises, calls for 66% of adults to earn a certificate or degree by 2025. To get there, Colorado must address the barriers to student success some of which are highlighted above.
For more information, visit the CDHE website.
The Colorado Department of Higher Education contributed to this story.