When the CC student government association (CCSGA) put out a survey to students about the costs of college textbooks last spring before the pandemic, the results were sobering. "A surprising number of students at CC, and in colleges in general, have skipped meals, not bought groceries, lived off of ramen in order to afford textbooks," Sophie Cardin '22, the Vice President of CCSGA told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project.
For Amy Hill, discussions on food equity date back to 2018, when she started a "build-your-own-snack-pack" program. The program aimed to address food insecurity for students who remain on campus for long breaks, when campus dining halls reduce their meal options and hours. The snack-pack program ran on afternoons before the start of a long break. The offerings included snacks like popcorn and candy, but not many fruits and vegetables or ingredients you could build a meal with, Hill said.
So when the pandemic hit last March, it became clear that some students stranded on campus wanted access to free, healthy options for their meals without having to risk COVID exposure at a grocery store. In early April, Campus Activities paraprofessional Antonio Soto '19, joined Campus Activities Director Amy Hill, to help turn the snack-pack program into a well-stocked food pantry where CC students living on campus could shop weekly for their meals.
In an average week, Soto estimated around 25-35 students sign up for a time slot to pick items out of the food pantry. Because of walk-ins, though, around 40 students typically show up. Hill & Soto said they spend around $600 per week on groceries for students, so every student is able to walk away with roughly $15 worth of food each visit.
At the end of spring and during the summer, some of the Campus Activities budget paid for the pantry initiative. The project was able to continue throughout the Fall Semester because CC's student government decided to fund it as a part of their annual budget. However, funding the food pantry initiative through the Campus Activities budget isn't a long-term solution for addressing food insecurity on campus.
Because of this, Amy & Antonio, in collaboration with Advancement staff members, have proposed a new fundraising initiative to help address food insecurity on campus more permanently by creating the Food Pantry Initiative Fund. Through this fund, we invite members of the CC community to join us in reducing food insecurity for all CC students, particularly during fall and winter breaks when our most vulnerable community members tend to stay on campus. For CC students living on campus, there will continue to be no barriers to entry for accessing the food pantry.
"We didn't want to say, 'oh, you could only use the food pantry if you fall into this financial bracket, or you have demonstrated need," Hill said. "We wanted anyone to be able to come through without shame and take what they need."
Please join us in reducing food insecurity on campus by making your gift to the CC Food Pantry Initiative today.