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NECC Launches Food Initiatives this Month

Submitted by on September 18, 2018 – 5:51 pm

Karen Hruska, director of counseling, and Janel D’Agata-Lynch, coordinator of community resources, with donated bread and peanut butter. PB & J popup stations will be available to NECC students.

One returning initiative and two new initiatives to fight food insecurity on campus are already in the works for the fall semester for members of the Northern Essex community.

The free mobile farmers’ market, which is held the fourth Tuesday of the month for students, faculty, and staff, in partnership with The Greater Boston Food Bank, will begin Sept. 25. Other dates are Oct. 23, Nov. 27, Dec. 11, January 29, February 26, March 26, and April 23.

The distribution location has been changed from the Sport & Fitness Center to the walkway between the Behrakis Student Center and the Bentley Library on the Haverhill campus from 12:30 to 1 p.m. In Lawrence the Mini Mart will distribute food near behind the El-Hefni Center (weather permitting) from 1 to 1:30 p.m. In inclement weather it will be held in the El-Hefni lobby.

NECC students, faculty, and staff can register the week before the market. Up to 20 to 25 lbs. of food is available per person. It is best carried in sturdy bags or boxes.

Since April of 2017 there have been eight markets with a total distribution of 57 thousand pounds of fruits and vegetables.

For questions about the market, please email

New this year, according to Karen Hruska, director of NECC’s Counseling Center, are pop-up peanut butter & jelly stations with bread donated by Haverhill’s Fantini Bakery and peanut butter donated by Teddie Peanut Butter in Everett. Non-nut spreads are also available, as well as gluten-free bread. Individuals looking for a free PB & J, can find the supplies in the counseling office in SC111 or any of the five academic centers, the Hub at Riverwalk, and student advising and student government offices on both the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses.

With data showing that food insecurity among Massachusetts community college students is nearly 50 percent, Hruska said, the intent of the food initiatives is to “make sure that no student is hungry while on our campus.”

“We don’t want any student to walk around hungry when there is a free sandwich available to them,” Hruska said.

Students in K-12 can receive subsidized lunches, Hruska noted, there is no such vehicle in place for students attending college.

The third and final initiative is “Smart Meals” and begins at the end of September for students who need a hot meal. The meals are created from food that is donated from schools, hotels, and restaurants and repurposed into healthy meals that are frozen and stored in a deep freezer. Each meal contains protein, vegetable, and a carbohydrate.

“Northern Essex is committed to taking care of its students,” said Hruska.

“We hope these new efforts will help students realize they are not alone when it comes to food insecurity,” said Janel D’Agata-Lynch, coordinator of civic engagement, service-learning and community resources. “Many students who qualify for financial aid may also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  We are here to assist and advocate for students through the SNAP application process.”

In addition, the office provides referrals to community partners for additional food resources, housing assistance, healthcare and other basic needs.  For more information, please the community resources office at 978-556-3471 or email