Kroger Grant Feeding Student Success at UHD
By Mike Emery
Since 2018, the University of Houston-Downtown’s Food for Change Market has been literally feeding student success. The market serves UHD students by providing them with up to 40 pounds of groceries weekly.
Thanks to the generosity of Kroger, the market (located on the second floor of UHD’s One Main Building - S292) recently extended its services to students and its reach on campus. A $15,000 grant from the grocery chain has allowed the market to double its student staff, increase its hours of operation, and serve even more Gators.
The market provides students with groceries weekly through UHD’s Food Scholarship Program. Scholarship recipients can pick up fruits, vegetables, non-perishables, toiletries and cleaning supplies at the market. Both the market and scholarships are made possible through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank.
Prior to the grant, the Food for Change Market employed four student staff members who stocked shelves and distributed food to participants. Now, a staff of eight is available to further ensure students’ needs are being met. The added staff members also ensure the market is open on Saturdays and Sundays to provide students with weekend groceries. It is now Houston’s first university food market with weekend hours.
“Our goal with this grant is to promote awareness of the market and to provide additional services to our students,” said Tremaine Kwasikpui, director of Student Activities. “We’re grateful to Kroger for recognizing the need for initiatives such as the Food for Change Market. In a short time, this grant has gone a long way for UHD’s students.”
The additional staffing, as well as reusable grocery bags donated by Kroger, also are helping the market reach students in other areas of the campus. According to Kwasikpui, the market has started making bags of food available once a month in the College of Public Service’s advising offices (located in the Commerce Street Building).
Making food available in the College of Public Service is part of a pilot program aimed at supporting those students who may not have classes in One Main Building or can’t make it to the market.
“The market is focused on serving as many of our students as possible,” Kwasikpui said. “We are utilizing resources provided by Kroger to ensure that students in other areas of campus have access to the market’s inventory.
Next up for the market is organizing cooking demonstrations for students. Funds from Kroger’s grant will assist in live campus events aimed at helping students learn how to properly cook the food they receive from the market. Kwasikpui is in the process of recruiting local chefs to lead these demonstrations. In the meantime, his growing staff researches recipes and informational cards that are distributed with groceries.
UHD’s Food for Change Market and its food scholarships debuted in 2018 to much success. That same year, UHD was named Houston Food Bank’s Higher Education Partner of the Year. Scholarships are available to all members of UHD’s student body. Students can apply for the scholarship directly at the Food for Change Market.
The market and scholarship program is managed by Kwasikpui and Courtney Lundgren, director of Enrollment Communication & Client Relationship Management. Student workers include Cristian Contreras, Mahalia Ogude, Christiana Medina, Shey-Marie Posey, Denia Contreras and Ryan Sharp. Volunteers also lend a hand to the market’s operations.
National studies have shown that one in three college students experience food insecurity (or lack of access to fresh, nutritional meals). The goal of the Food for Change Market was to help change this statistic.
“Access to nutrition is important to everyone,” Kwasikpui said. “UHD’s Food for Change Market is helping eliminate food insecurity among our own students with support of excellent partners like the Houston Food Bank and Kroger.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.