ARC student support programs shift toward basic needs as pandemic continues

ARC’s primary focus is to connect students with food and funds after a year in quarantine

The+Beaver+Food+Pantry+at+American+River+College%2C+is+a+key+resource+for+students+with+basic+need+insecurities+and+will+re-open+for+the+hybrid+semester+in+Fall+2021.+%28Screenshot+via+the+ARC+website%E2%80%99s+Beaver+Food+Pantry+video%29

The Beaver Food Pantry at American River College, is a key resource for students with basic need insecurities and will re-open for the hybrid semester in Fall 2021. (Screenshot via the ARC website’s Beaver Food Pantry video)

Ben Kynaston, Staff Writer

At the peak of the pandemic in the fall, many companies rushed to capitalize on student economic insecurity during the back-to-school season and offered deals and promotions for the anticipated transition into online learning. 

Now over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies have withdrawn their support and American River College’s student services department has put its focus on basic needs by offering grants and operating the Beaver Food Pantry. 

Where does this leave students who have unreliable internet or can’t afford the internet altogether? 

In March, ARC’s staff focused on correcting the technological inequality issue for students by offering free Chromebooks, according to Joshua Moon Johnson, dean of student services, equity programs and pathways.

Now, Moon-Johnson says that ARC is aiming to continue supporting students through the pandemic in as many ways as possible, including help in transitioning to online courses.

“In addition to short-term resources, ARC staff can help students find jobs. ARC’s Career and Pathways office has regular job postings for students to be employed at the college or off-campus,” Moon-Johnson said. “ARC has provided more than 1,300 students with a computer device as a loan or gift, and thousands of Los Rios students have been supported with free internet.” 

Along with these free technology resources, Student Services staff has made a point to connect students to affordable internet being offered to eligible households. However, if one’s household is not eligible for support but still needs it, the Xfinity student discount, which can be accessed here, is an affordable and robust package for student support, offering affordable internet, cash bonuses and lifestyle benefits such as six months of free access to Amazon Music for college students. 

ARC’s Student Services aim to continue helping students access resources. The college will continue to offer free Chromebooks for the summer semester and into the upcoming academic year according to Moon-Johnson and bookstore vouchers are still available under specific circumstances, but the department’s primary aim is to attend basic needs for students.

“ARC has continued to address basic needs for students while classes have been remote,” Moon-Johnson said. 

This focus on basic needs led the administration to prioritize food distribution and student safety. The first thing the Beaver Food Pantry did after quarantine began was ensure they could provide students e-gift cards that could be emailed to students so that they could buy groceries online and have them delivered safely rather than break quarantine.

ARC has also been able to establish the hotel voucher program for students facing housing insecurity, according to Moon-Johnson. 

“We saw many more students in need and we were running out of funding, but thankfully our fundraising officer made housing and food insecurity a top priority and was able to raise additional funds so we can continue to support students in these respects,” Moon-Johnson said.

Moon-Johnson says he’s proud of the work that the food pantry in particular as it represents the community’s ability to come together amid tragedy and trouble and do good for others. 

“The Beaver Food Pantry was a truly collaborative effort that truly started with the Associated Student Body being vocal about the needs of students,” Moon-Johnson said. “Faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and community members have all come together to donate, pack boxes, promote the services, and embrace students facing challenges with food insecurity.” 

While technological resources are dwindling, resources for food, housing and financing are becoming more available through ARC’s student services and several off-campus efforts to help food or housing-insecure people. 

“Supporting students’ basic needs is a top priority and was one of the first things that ARC brought back as an in-person service. We know it is hard to study if someone does not have adequate food or housing,” Moon-Johnson said. “There is always more need than resources, so we must constantly do more and help our students. We wish we could do more.”