At Community College of Vermont, student ambassadors are working with fellow students to spread the word about 3SquaresVT.

“The 3SquaresVT Student Ambassador project is born from the Vermont Foodbank’s community engagement work and how the 3SquaresVT team specifically values lived expertise,” explains Faye, who works at the Foodbank and is a CCV alum with lived experience of food insecurity. Faye has been building the foundation for the ambassador project for years. Ambassadors are Community College of Vermont students based at CCV sites statewide and are paid, part-time positions focused on peer outreach — making sure more people have access to 3SquaresVT (a program that provides money each month for groceries) and other supports.

“We know from the RealCollege survey that CCV students are struggling with food access, they’re struggling with hunger, they’re struggling with housing, all kinds of basic needs. And we know from 3SquaresVT research that college students often face the most significant barriers to applying for and accessing programs like 3SquaresVT,” says Faye.

The RealCollege report, a March 2021 survey showing how the pandemic has affected CCV students’ basic needs, found that 39% of students surveyed worried about running out of food before they had money to buy more, and 38% could not afford to eat balanced meals.

“More than half of the students who were working lost jobs,” says Faye. “Which means they’ve lost income. Then what’s next is their housing. The very first thing to go when you fall on hard times is your food security. Because you can not pay for your food and nobody’s really going to notice that your fridge is empty…They’re going to notice it if you don’t pay your tuition…your rent…if you don’t have your textbooks required for school.”

“We also know that when a peer — who looks like me, who sounds like me, who I’ve seen around campus or in my online classroom — talks to me about something, I’m much more likely to hear what that person is saying and be able to connect with them and relate to it.”

Faye describes the project’s value for the college community, the Foodbank’s mission, and the ambassadors themselves. “It’s providing the 3SquaresVT student ambassadors with a real leadership role in addressing an issue that they’ve seen themselves on campus, or that they’ve experienced themselves, and to have that lived experience valued every day.”

Meet the Ambassadors

“Since going back to school in 2020, I have and still do struggle with food insecurity. The stigma around food stamps is still very real and the application process is difficult and time consuming. If I can help someone else take the first steps to create a better situation for themselves, I want to do that.”

– Cami, Design and Media Studies major

“The impact I hope to see is to reduce the stigma around 3SquaresVT…The more that we bring awareness around it, the more we not only meet the student’s educational need but the social economic need of that student, the better off that student will be, the better they’ll be able to achieve…I think this is a great program and it’s doing wonders for students.”

– Amanda, Behavioral Science major

“I just want more people to know about 3SquaresVT and to not feel shame in using it. I strongly believe that it’s our money, it’s tax money, and we have the right to use it in ways that benefit us. I will not be gaslit into believing that it’s a handout and that only corporations can socialize the losses but capitalize the profits. I don’t see any harm with somebody who needs access to food to be able to use the government’s help to get food, at all. So, it inspired me to destigmatize it and to be an ambassador promoting it.”

– Emmanuel, studying Accounting

“During my childhood, my family struggled financially and used SNAP benefits. SNAP gave us the opportunity to be successful! Many of us go through difficult situations in our lives, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think having a student resource center led by student ambassadors also contributes to creating a community-oriented environment. It helps students feel they are not alone.”

– Shannah, STEM major

  • Matthew works at Foodworks food shelf, one of the 353 community organizations that partners with Vermont Foodbank working towards a food-secure vermont.

  • Elysia lives in St. Johnsbury and is a community consultant for Vermont Foodbank. She brings her expertise to help improve services and increase access to food for folks in her community.

  • This month, we're celebrating you and those who've offered the Gift of Support and in so doing have joined us on the journey of creating a food-secure Vermont by sharing part of a recent interview with friend and neighbor Sara.