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Colorado Department of Higher Education announces seven additional Hunger Free and Healthy Minds designations

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DENVER – June 8, 2023: The Colorado Department of Higher Education expanded its social determinants of student success initiative by adding seven new designations to its list of Hunger Free and Healthy Minds campuses.

The state is now one step closer to having all 31 public institutions of higher education earn the designations. Currently, 25 institutions have the Healthy Minds designation and 26 have the Hunger Free designation.  

CDHE Executive Director, Dr. Angie Paccione, emphasized the importance of the initiative, “Students can’t learn if they’re hungry. It sounds simple enough, but we must do a better job of setting our students up for success and it starts with addressing food insecurity and mental health. We hope to see this initiative expanded to address other barriers to success like inadequate access to transportation and childcare. CDHE is committed to the success of every student in Colorado.” 

CDHE created Hunger Free and Healthy Minds Campus Checklists to work with existing resources on college campuses and offer a variety of options to ensure that the needs of students are met. Colorado colleges and universities use the checklists to implement four core programs and six focused initiatives to receive a hunger free or healthy minds designation. The newest institutions receiving designation are:

Healthy Minds:

  • Adams State University
  • Aims Community College
  • Otero College
  • University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Hunger Free:

  • Otero College
  • University of Colorado Colorado Springs
  • Western Colorado University

Adams State’s “Gab With a Grizzly” promotes informal access to counselors and helps students break the stigma of counseling. Students can request appointments online and get online counseling immediately rather than scheduling calls or walk-ins. At UCCS, emergency and crisis contact information is included on all digital student IDs, which every student is required to have. Otero’s Team-Based Mental Health Sessions are offered as requested by coaches. To date, counselors have designed and implemented curricula with two women’s soccer cohorts and one women’s volleyball cohort to specifically support student-athletes.

Aims has a Recovery Steering Committee that is focused on substance misuse prevention. This group offers Recovery Allyship Zone trainings focused on destigmatizing recovery, resources education and promoting allyship to those in recovery. Food pantries are vital in addressing food insecurity. While some institutions like UCCS have an established food pantry, others like Western recently opened its food pantry, the Mountaineer Food Hub in February 2023.  A 2019 survey conducted at Otero revealed that 93% of students would regularly use a free food pantry. By the fall of 2022, six pantries are open, strategically placed throughout campus with about 54% of students regularly using food pantry items.

CDHE’s Office of Educational Equity is creating a basic needs coalition steering committee where an individual from every campus across the state provides information on how to make higher education truly accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status or background. This coalition will meet regularly to ensure all students in Colorado have access to sufficient food, housing, mental and physical health, and the financial resources to succeed inside and outside the classroom.

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