As the administration spends this semester toying with the idea of building a food pantry, students are going hungry.
Food insecurity, or anxiety about availability of food, is proven to be a big deal on community college campuses. A December 2015 study showed that over half of community college students surveyed were experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity has been correlated to lower GPAs. So why hasn’t ARC stepped up for its hungry students?
Food insecurity includes any student who has limited availability or lack of access to a sufficient amount of nutritious food, and encompasses more students than the school may realize. Food pantries are helpful not just to students who are going hungry every day, but to students who may be running short on money for groceries that week after bills, or students who have children they feed before themselves.
ARC is the only Los Rios college without a student food pantry or food security program (Sac City doesn’t have an on-site pantry, but they receive weekly deliveries from the Sacramento Food Bank). We are also the largest of the four colleges, with an enrollment of around 35,000 in any given semester.
Food insecurity can impact anyone, and on a campus as diverse as ARC’s, hundreds of students could be suffering from it.
Our school is undoubtedly behind the game in student food assistance. Hungry students can apply for CalFresh, the state food assistance program, but not everyone qualifies for it. Some students may not even know that CalFresh has a student program, or may be embarrassed or afraid to apply for public assistance.
Gov. Jerry Brown just passed AB 1747, requiring California higher education institutions to apply to participate in local food assistance programs. It also establishes a state fund for college food pantries, as part of the State Emergency Food Assistance Program.
This means that ARC will almost definitely have a food pantry established, with funding help from the state, by next fall, and students may be able to use CalFresh benefits on campus.
But that doesn’t change the state of hungry students on this campus here and now.
An established, organized food bank on campus would give students in need a place to get help in a familiar, safe environment.
The Associated Student Body Student Senate and Clubs and Events Board have recognized the need, and have discussed in their meetings the creation of a student-led campus food pantry, run on donations and/or with funding from the ARC Foundation. CAEB will hold a canned food drive for students in need at Club Day this Thursday.
Students have realized the problems of other students, but the administration hasn’t offered a helping hand to them, through funding, organizational help or otherwise.
Two departments have recognized the needs of their students, and have started small assistance programs on our campus so far – the administration should model themselves after these departments to help the majority of the student body.
Currently, two small food pantries are run by the Veteran’s Resource Center and the Behavioral and Social Sciences department in Davies Hall. The VRC pantry is available only to student veterans, and the BSS pantry is paid for out of professors’ pockets and is available only through contact with BSS professors or the department.
Neither pantry has the resources to support more than a few students.
While these are great resources for students who can access them, a large-scale, organized, well-funded food pantry in a central location like the student center would be able to serve large numbers of students who could really use the help.
Earlier is better for establishment of the pantry – not only will getting the pantry up and running smoothly help students, but it will make applying for state funding through the new bill easier.
It’s time for ARC’s administration to band together with its students to create a healthier, more inclusive campus.