Librarian takes on Hendry hunger

Freshman student assistant Dominique Hughes at Hendry Center’s library front desk going through the community food pantry for hungry students. Photo by Jazmine Santillana

By Jazmine Santillana

FSW Hendry Center is full of hungry students. One assistant librarian is using her extra time and office space to feed them.

“It started off as just a candy dish, but I just knew, I could see it in their eyes,” said Jerri Awbray.

Awbray noticed the hungry students when she began working at the center a year ago. Now, she keeps a drawer of the library front desk stocked with non-perishable food for the students.

“We keep oatmeal, ramen, macaroni and cheese, things like that in there.”

Unlike FSW’s larger campuses, the center doesn’t have a café. The only food comes from vending machines full of chips and candy. Students without cars can’t go off campus for food either.

The center’s population has grown each semester, according to the center director, Amanda Lehrian. That includes the dual-enrolled students who bus in for their college classes. Last semester, the center enrolled 120 high school students.

“When I started, I noticed the high school students that came over on the bus didn’t have lunches,” said Awbray. “I think I noticed right away because a lot of them come in the library since they can’t go home and don’t have cars. So, they come in at 11:00 and the bus doesn’t leave till 2:20.”

Awbray took it upon herself to provide what students’ schools didn’t.

She began the food pantry trying to help one student.

“One student was actually homeless, and she got a Harry Chapin box. She didn’t have anywhere to put it so I told her that the drawer would be her food drawer,” said Awbray. “It started to snowball into realizing that so many of them didn’t have lunch, especially those that came over on the bus from the high school. It evolved into a drawer for kids who didn’t have money for lunch or breakfast.”

Awbray may have started the drawer, but it’s grown into a collaborative effort.

“I mentioned it to some friends, and they started buying stuff, and to some professors and they also bought things,” said Awbray. “Everyone contributes. It helps. It’s a community food bank. It’s necessary.”

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