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Lion Co-op to launch Groceries to Graduate scholarship

Joplin, MO – The Lion Co-op at Missouri Southern State University has announced a new scholarship program, Groceries to Graduate.

During the 2020-21 academic year, scholarships will be awarded to 10-15 undergraduates who have earned senior status (90+ credit hours) and have demonstrated financial need. The scholarships will be provided in the form of tokens that the recipients can redeem for fresh food items at the Webb City Farmers Market.

Housed in the campus FEMA shelter, the co-op opened in November 2018. The food pantry was intended to assist students dealing with food insecurity. Donations from the campus community and other organizations have kept shelves stocked with food and toiletry items for those in need.

Since its creation, the co-op has grown and developed in a number of ways, said Dr. Megan Bever, associate professor of history and one of the faculty advisors for the Lion Co-op.

“One of our goals has always been to be more than just a food pantry,” said Bever. “Our bigger goal academically is to look at ways that food insecurity and higher education are intertwined.

“We’ve had interns working in the co-op, students have done research projects, and a class in the spring learned about food insecurity and nonprofit ways to address it.”

Bever said the Groceries to Graduate scholarship will be targeted toward upperclassmen who don’t live on campus and are working toward completing their degree, but also dealing with financial hardship.

“Right now, we’re working with Financial Aid and the Institutional Effectiveness office (to identify potential recipients) as a pilot year to work out the kinks,” she said. “In the future, students will be able to apply through the Missouri Southern Foundation. They will receive tokens that can be redeemed at the farmers market just like they would use cash.

“We’ve partnered with the Webb City Farmers Market to let students do their own shopping. It will give them access to fresh meat and fresh produce, and give them a more independent shopping experience.”

It’s a partnership that the co-op staff believes will benefit not just students, but also local farmers and vendors.

The Groceries to Graduate scholarship program is made possible by grants from the Spiva Cragin Foundation, the Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation, and the Ozark Area CROP Hunger Walk.

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