(FORT BEND COUNTY) - Hunger and homelessness is widespread among college students and to help battle this issue Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County has set up a student food pantry.
TSTC Campus Enrollment Executive Georgeann Calzada said the mission of the pantry is to provide struggling students with meals.
“The goal with all of our support resources is to fill a gap for our students until we have a permanent solution and/or they are able to get back on their feet with the support of one of the many community organizations we work with,” said Calzada. “Food insecurities are great concern across college and university campuses.”
On average, the food pantry at TSTC will assist at least five students a week.
The pantry is filled with canned goods, cereals, soups, oatmeal, and toiletries such as shampoos, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
“We realize our students enter college with outside factors that might impact their learning environment,” said Calzada. “Many of our students work paycheck-to-paycheck and try to make it with only five dollars in their pocket, so we want to help get them through this period in their life to get them on their way to a career.”
Many of the items the pantry is stocked with are donations that come from TSTC staff and faculty and community businesses and neighbors.
The last large donation for the pantry came from Kroger’s, which donated $200 worth of food.
The pantry is primarily used for students, but when Hurricane Harvey hit, the outpouring of donations from TSTC campuses across the state and from the community allowed the pantry to be open to faculty and staff in need as well during that period.
According to the recent study “Still Hungry and Homeless in College,” by researchers at Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab, 42 percent of community college students describe themselves as food insecure, with one third saying they have skipped meals or eaten smaller portions to cut costs.
TSTC Student Government Association president Rene Escobar works at the pantry part-time assisting with restocking and organizing and said he has seen firsthand how the pantry helps alleviate student stress.
“Having a food pantry on campus helps make students feel at home,” said Escobar. “Students know they are welcome to come by anytime and get what they need. In turn, this allows them to focus more on school.”
Escobar, who is also a Diesel Equipment Technology student at TSTC, said he encourages students to use the pantry.
“Students should not be embarrassed about using the pantry. Sometimes there’s a negative stigma that surrounds asking for help,” said he said. “But this pantry is here for them. To help them in their journey to success. They should take full advantage of the service, it’s okay to ask for help.”
Calzada said she wants students to be aware that TSTC is there to assist them through every challenge and obstacle they face during their time at the college.
“Our pantry has made the progress needed with the continued growth of our campus and we will continue to provide the needed services for our students,” said Calzada. “Since we’re a commuter campus, fuel is also a big issue for our students, so with the support of our provost we’ve set funds aside for gas cards. As long as the student continues to do his/her part to attend and pass classes then we’ll do everything in our power to alleviate struggles.”
For more information on the student food pantry or to donate, call 346-239-3422.