– Students spearhead project to open campus food pantry at CGCC

– Students spearhead project to open campus food pantry at CGCC

Recent research indicates that college students experience food insecurity (lacking access to enough nutritious food needed to live a healthy, active life) at a rate much higher than the national average — a study released just last year that surveyed over 33,000 students at 70 community colleges across the country found 67% of the students suffered from food insecurity.

A group of Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society students are spearheading the effort of opening a food pantry on their campus. These students are taking matters into their own hands to address the issue of student hunger and ensure their peers’ success in school is not limited by a lack of access to basic needs, like food (see: It’s hard to study if you’re hungry).

“Some of our students trying to excel academically face financial obstacles,” the group writes in their project proposal. “In some cases, this means going home to nothing in their pantries or even facing homelessness, which forces them to do homework on an empty stomach…and [causes] a lack of focus when it comes to education.”

The team has garnered the support of administrators and the college’s foundation. They successfully secured a space for the pantry in the basement of The Dalles’ campus, and plan to call it “The Nook,” a name expressive of the safe and inviting space they seek to create, as well as a nod to the school’s mascot, the Chinook Salmon.

Team lead, honors student Abby Stelzer, recently attended a Food Security Coalition meeting where she was able to connect with the community partners necessary to help move the project forward. Students are currently meeting with these partners, such as the new Columbia Gorge Food Bank, Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service, and Gorge Grown Food Network, to gain input on the project and brainstorm ways the different groups can collaborate to operate a successful and impactful food pantry.

While details are still being discussed, the students hope to create a space that offers other services students may need in addition to emergency food assistance. Ideas include: information on how to sign up for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) and other human services; partnering with OSU Extension Service’s Food Hero program to provide nutrition education and on-site cooking demonstrations; offering locker facilities for students going without permanent housing; and providing vital non-food items such as toiletries and school supplies. The Nook is expected to be in full operation by fall of 2018, and conversations about expansion to the college’s Hood River campus are underway.

This display of student leadership and community organizing is truly inspirational. To get involved with or support this effort, please contact staff advisor Michelle Gietl at mgietl@cgcc.edu

By Kiara Kashuba, Oregon State University Extension Service — Wasco County