By Cameron Gamache and Tyler St. Onge
FSW created a food pantry after spring semester to help students like Bishop McDonald.
“It’s about to get hard again. My dad’s about to lose his night job at Naples Daily News,” McDonald said. “We’re going to struggle like before.”
McDonald struggled his freshman year to afford food, before the pantry opened.
“I don’t think I’m ever eating breakfast or lunch,” McDonald said last year, “and for the past week I haven’t eaten dinner.”
For the first two weeks of last spring semester, McDonald went without eating a full meal after paying for textbooks.
Life improved last semester when his father got a second job.
“We started to be able to afford groceries and make dinner every night,” he said. “He had a night job and I made more because it was season.”
McDonald was able to afford his part of the rent and have walking around money for food at school.
Now, hunger is creeping into his family again. McDonald isn’t alone in his struggle.
Just over 61% of community colleges students across the country experience food insecurity, according to a 2019 survey by The Hope Center at Temple University. Food insecurity is the inability to access safe, nutritionally adequate food on a regular basis due to lack of money.
The increasing cost of school and the rising number of low-income students in community college make a population who cut basic necessities to stay on track to pass classes.
“It’s a really tough time transitioning into adulthood,” said Assistant Dean of Students Angela Snyder. “We want to make sure food is not something you’re cutting out because you have to pay your phone bill.”
To combat food insecurity, FSW started food pantries on each campus and Hendry center in May 2019.
“I noticed that community food pantries often do not get utilized by students,” Snyder said. “Having a pantry on campus normalizes the process of accessing food resources.”
Lee campus’s main pantry, in the Student Engagement office, is entering its second semester of operation.
Before the pantry, students like McDonald didn’t eat many days. If he ever gets to that point again, he can get a Harry Chapin Food Bank box of nonperishable goods from the Student Engagement pantry.
Last semester, the pantry handed out 166 boxes to students on the Lee campus. Students got 39 boxes in January.
Student Engagement’s pantry isn’t the only one on campus.
There’s one in the Lighthouse Commons for students living on campus and another in Angela Snyder’s office on the second floor of S Building.
“We wanted multiple access points for students who aren’t ready to go to a food pantry,” Snyder said. “Every student I meet with, I suggest if they want to grab some food.”
Snyder’s office is where allergy-sensitive foods are kept along with other basic needs items students might need.
“We have clothing, toiletries, razors,” Snyder said.
While Harry Chapin Food Bank fuels Student Engagement’s pantry, Snyder’s is run on donations.
“We get all kinds of donations from faculty members,” she said. “We highly recommend that if anyone wants to donate that they donate to our dean of students.”
Fighting food insecurity is more difficult than creating a pantry, though.
Almost 30% of college students who are food insecure don’t use food pantries, according to a 2017 Kent State University study. The main reason was that the students didn’t want others to know they were in need.
FSW tries to combat stigma by making their pantry open to every student.
“To stop the stigma, we wanted to make the pantry accessible to everyone,” Snyder said.
McDonald said he would use the pantry if his situation got bad enough.
“I’d probably be a little down about it just looking at the situation were in, but I would be grateful for the help.”
The Student Engagement pantry tries to normalize food pantries.
“You see them slinking down and kind of shy about it,” said Director of Student Engagement Sholondo Campbell. “And then by the time they’re walking out we’re joking with them and having a good time. We just love on them and talk to them.”
Lee campus’s pantry is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Q-127. To access pantries on other campuses and Hendry center students can talk to their student engagement or student services office. “Some students say ‘Some people have it a lot worse than me,’” Snyder said, “but if you’re skipping meals, that’s enough.”