Hidden Crisis on College Campuses
Submitted By Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
A degree in higher education is one of the greatest predictors of success later in life, but how do you learn when you can’t afford food to fuel your studies? Ramen jokes aside, almost half of local college students struggle to afford food due to the increasing costs of housing, tuition, and books. Colleges are addressing the problem by working with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano to establish on-campus food pantries.
The Food Bank’s College Pantry Program currently partners with CSU East Bay-Concord, Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College, Contra Costa College, and most recently welcomed St. Mary’s College and CSU-Maritime. Enrolled students with a school ID can pick up free groceries at these little mini-markets. Students are able to pick out what food they want according to their personal dietary restrictions or food preferences.
Each college pantry operates with a staff member and student volunteers. One pantry coordinator we talked to tells students on her campus, “Don’t feel ashamed to come in; we don’t want you to be hungry.” She then shared with us, “Some students have whispered to me, ‘I have been hungry’ – they always say it in a whisper.”
Shelf-stable foods available include pasta, fruits, vegetables, soups, beans, and rice. The pantries that have refrigeration are able to offer eggs, milk, and juice. A couple of the pantries have freezers, so they are able to distribute meat as well. Many of them also carry necessities like socks and toothbrushes.
We are inspired by these colleges who are not only discussing the issue of student hunger but taking action as well. We will continue to expand this program to other campuses and are even looking into partnering with local adult schools. We are committed to being there for those who are pursuing their education today so they can better provide for themselves and their families tomorrow.