University Receives New Jersey “Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge” Grant for Nearly $1.5 Million to Address Food Insecurity for Students with Exceptional Financial Need

William Paterson University has been awarded nearly $1.5 million through New Jersey’s “Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge” grant program for a pilot project that aims to tackle the issue of food insecurity for William Paterson students with exceptional financial need.

The competitive challenge grant program is funded by $28.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education, through the second round of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding. William Paterson is one of the public and public-mission private institutions who have received awards to increase college completion, address barriers to student success, and develop sustainable systemic reforms. 

William Paterson will use the grant funds to provide a meal allowance to incoming first-year and transfer students who are eligible for the University’s innovative Pledge4Success Program and do not have a meal plan in place. The Pledge4Success Program, launched in fall 2019, provides grants to incoming first-year students that make up the difference between what a student receives if eligible for full New Jersey TAG and federal PELL grants (for students with exceptional financial need) and what he or she owes in tuition and fees.

“William Paterson University has been at the forefront of access, equity and affordability by implementing one of the first free college promises in the state through our Pledge4Success program,” says President Richard J. Helldobler, noting that since its inception, the program has assisted more than 1,000 students. “Yet, the piece that still remains a challenge for our students is food insecurity. This grant funding will allow us to help one of our most vulnerable populations and to tackle one of the most pressing issues in terms of equity and affordability head-on by putting direct aid in our students’ hands.”

The University will add a meal allowance to the ID cards of students who qualify for the program, enabling them to eat their meals on campus. William Paterson expects to fund approximately 300 full-time first-year and full-time transfer students during the first year of the project; students will be eligible for a second year of funding.