By Jazmine Santillana
Yuliance Fernandez, a LaBelle High School senior and dual-enrollment student, must often choose between going hungry for the day or earning early college credits.
“FSW doesn’t meet my needs in any way because they just have a vending machine. The only things you can actually get are water, Gatorade, and like some chips and chocolate,” said Fernandez. “But that’s not actual food. If you don’t want to eat those things, you want actual food, then they don’t have that for you.”
A bus transports Fernandez and several other dual-enrollment students to FSW’s Hendry Glades-Curtis Center at around 11:30 a.m., and returns to pick up the students at 2:20 p.m. At the high school, many participate in after school activities.
They don’t get lunch before they go to FSW.
Fernandez participates in several activities after school, which usually don’t end until 3:45 p.m.
“I stay to tutor math. I also stay if I need help in my classes. Sometimes there are student government meetings or National Honor Society meetings,” she said.
Fernandez takes one speech class at the Hendry center on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. If she doesn’t have time to make a sandwich before school, she misses lunch. Spending about four hours at FSW, as well as her additional time at LaBelle High School, Fernandez often goes without food for 11 straight hours on the days she attends FSW.
“In the high school, when I get back, they don’t have anything for you. No snacks or anything, so I don’t eat usually until 5 or 6 when my mom is able to cook. So, if I didn’t take my lunch I would have to be starving until 6 o’ clock.”
Fernandez is one of the several dual-enrolled students who attend the Hendry Center that struggle to decide between focusing on their studies and having something to eat.
“School starts really early,” Fernandez said. “My mom drops me off at around 7:20 a.m. and sometimes I’m in a rush, so I don’t have the time to make myself a sandwich or whatever I want to eat that day.”
The Hendry Center is small, with only two buildings, A and B. It is equipped with a full-service library (Building B), seven general classrooms, and four computer labs.
The student lounging area, which takes up much of Building A, is the only place to find vending machines, which contain the only food on campus.
“In the vending machine there isn’t actual food,” said Fernandez. “That’s not gonna satisfy me our anyone, just eating a bag of chips or whatever. It’s messed up.”
According to Google Maps, a Winn Dixie grocery store is located 1.2 miles away from the FSW campus. A Mexican restaurant sits 0.7 miles away.
“We are looking into some alternatives for food source,” said Amanda Lehrian, the director of the Hendry-Glades Curtis Center. “They have some vending services that are a little more than candy bars or chips.”
“The other thing that we are looking at potentially doing is contacting some of the area’s food trucks and inviting them to come in and set up one day during the week, every couple of weeks,” Lehrian continued. “That’s certainly not set in stone, but we’re trying to be creative about how we meet the needs out here.”
In the past, dual-enrollment students were able to receive a box lunch before they left for FSW. As of this semester, students are no longer given box lunches.
Administration at the high school was unaware of the fact that dual-enrollment students were not getting lunch before heading to FSW.
“I don’t see why they aren’t able to get their lunches and go,” said David Kelley, principle of LaBelle High School. “We just have to have a list of names to give to the lunch ladies.”
Several students were also unaware of the option to receive lunch, while others were unsure if they could, since they were not provided lunch last fall semester.
With the lack of food that students are able to receive while at FSW, going hungry is bound to have some effect on their ability to focus well in class.
“It’s really difficult to concentrate when you’re in class and you’re feeling hungry. I mean, it’s like that every time I go to FSW,” said Fernandez.