New scholarship provides food security for students

New scholarship provides food security for students

New scholarship provides food security for students

Wichita Falls rancher, businessman and game warden Pat Canan is a well-known figure in the Fain Fine Arts Center at Midwestern State University. He enjoys taking ceramics classes and has supported the continuing education program as a student and benefactor for years. More recently, Canan's efforts have been directed toward helping students personally, supporting them in an area that is emerging as a major issue for college students throughout the country: food security.

“We became aware of the growing challenges some college students face with food insecurity,” he said. “As many students and their respective families try to deal with the expenses related to pursuing a college education, there simply is not a lot of money left for meals and food needs.”

In response, Mr. and Mrs. Canan established an innovative scholarship program at MSU Texas that will help ensure that all students can access regular healthy meals, regardless of their financial situation. The Canans are encouraging others to support this effort to meet essential, but often hidden, needs of today's students who often take on debt or work long hours to finance their educations.

“The Canan Food Security Scholarship is consistent with MSU Texas' commitment to supporting students so that they can be successful and complete their degree programs,” President Suzanne Shipley said. “The Canans have identified an often overlooked, but crucial, component of academic success. This program has the potential to be an inspiring model for campuses across the country. We know how significant it is already for many of our students.”

As a professor, Steve Hilton sees the effects of food insecurity on students, whether it involves students choosing junk food from a vending machine for lunch because it's inexpensive, to drops in energy, attentiveness or overall health of individuals who are not eating well. "Hungry kids can't concentrate in class," said Hilton. One student confided in Hilton that he had a $45 a month budget for food. Hilton has worked with the Canans and others across campus to develop a program that will work for students and make the best use of resources.

The Canan contribution jump started the scholarship effort, and Hilton notes that others on campus have taken a big role. Chartwells, the campus dining and catering service, contributes meals at cost. Residence Life has integrated the program into existing systems. The administration has supported the Food Security wholeheartedly.

Interested students complete a simple application and submit a short statement of need. Those eligible receive funds on a standard campus meal card to provide at least one nutritious meal each day throughout the semester. Use of the benefit is invisible to others, insuring the privacy and dignity of those seeking assistance. The university has also taken steps to insure a quick-turnaround of requests.

The scholarship program enhances other efforts on campus. Earlier this year Mustangs Pantry, an emergency food pantry, opened at MSU Texas. Keith Lamb, Vice President for Student Affairs, said, "Increasing levels of food insecurity among college students present a significant barrier to achieving the dream of an education. We at MSU Texas are trying to be more intentional in addressing this challenge."  

Hilton is also professor-in-residence in Legacy Hall, the university's largest residence hall with almost 500 students. While this role is designed to bring academics into the living space, it also gives him a closer connection to students and their challenges, and provides opportunities to educate students in life skills. Hilton recently sponsored a program in which a local chef involved 15 students in purchasing food for and preparing a healthy meal for 18 people for only $35.

While his overall commitment to students motivates Hilton to support them in a variety of ways, his own experience comes into play as well. “This was me 30 years ago,” he said, referencing the beneficiaries of the scholarships. Like so many students, Hilton experienced his own challenges accessing healthy food while he was devoting most of his resources to tuition, books and rent.

Thanks to the Canans, Hilton and others, today's MSU Texas students have a new resource to support their health and academic success: The Canan Food Security Scholarship program.

Those who wish to support The Canan Food Security Scholarship at MSU Texas should go online to the Annual Fund web page or contact University Advancement and Public Affairs at

Students wishing to apply, visit Mustangs Link.