SPRC Helps Students with Additional Needs During Pandemic

May 26, 2021

Supporting student parents at Michigan State University is the focus of the Student Parent Resource Center (SPRC). What that support has meant during COVID-19 is immeasurable.

Located in the University Village Community Center on MSU’s campus, SPRC, within the Division of Student Affairs and Services (SAS), traditionally is focused on ensuring MSU student parents’ needs are met so they can focus on their education, experience and family. That may mean childcare, diapers, help with food and transportation – a gamut of needs. That was before COVID-19 hit. Since then, the work of the center has grown.

Kimberly Steed-Page, SPRC director, and Laraine Walton, administrative assistant for the center, have met this challenge head-on, quietly guiding MSU student parents to find resources, while also also assisting more traditional college students also facing incredible odds during the pandemic.

“We don’t turn anyone (student) away,” Steed-Page said. “Before you leave, you will know where to get help. We will help you get to where you need to be.”

With their knowledge of programs and requirements to apply for food assistance, as well as working with the MSU Student Food Bank, the East Lansing School District and St. Johns Food Cupboard/St. Thomas Aquinas Church in East Lansing, SPRC serves as a conduit for students to information, as well as a distribution site for the MSU community’s food needs.

Since March 17, 2020, SPRC has been a food distribution site for East Lansing Public Schools, where many children of MSU student parents attend school. The team manages registration for the MSU drop-off sites, open to any person with children, including those not in the school district.

The weekly delivery service provides families that sign up with seven days of what the USDA program considers breakfast and lunch, including fresh fruit, vegetables, 100% juice, milk and some prepared items. There are also vegetarian and special dietary restriction food items available. Weekly delivery is made at two locations – the University Village Community Center and Spartan Village, following all COVID guidelines. Other university employees also volunteer at the site.

Removing food insecurity is one of the focuses of this team of two and that has expanded to MSU students without children during COVID. The St. Johns Food Cupboard was already serving the MSU community and East Lansing residents when leaders reached out to Steed-Page about setting up delivery and bringing their cupboard to those in need because of changes in CATA’s service during COVID-19.

“If they don’t have a car and CATA is not running, they would need to find a way to get to the East Lansing High School, so we’ve been able to support that,” Steed-Page said. On Saturday mornings the SPRC team works with St. Johns Food Cupboard to help serve residents on campus, providing them with food and toiletries. Steed-Page estimated about 300 students completed the survey for need the first week.

“We had real need, due to jobs lost and other things that came up during the pandemic,” she said, explaining that many times students living off-campus don’t have meal plans.

Registration is required for the Saturday deliveries, which will continue every two weeks through the summer. “Anything we can do to help free up the cash that they have is where we are focused,” Steed-Page explained.

The MSU Student Food Bank offers pickup services for students once a week through registration on its website.

Since SPRC does not have the ability to give money, the team writes grants and partners with community folks to offer opportunities to students who can then save the money they do have for other needs. “We’re the behind-the-scenes folks, working to reduce the anxiety of being a student and a parent,” Steed-Page said.

“It is case-by-case support to students,” she said. “Individually they have such unique needs, and we can’t always anticipate them. We work with student families and support the whole family as best we can.”

This includes partnering across MSU’s campus with other organizations, such as the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD), the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS). There are also off-campus partners, like Lansing Community College (LCC) to help its student parents considering transferring to MSU.

Learn more about the SPRC team and programs at studentparents.msu.edu. For more information or to register for any of the programs, including food needs, contact steedkim@msu.edu.

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