It is not uncommon for college students to find themselves snacking on ramen noodles or junk food when they sit down and study. But many students don’t have access to snacks, let alone a healthy meal.
This semester, some of the students enrolled in the Northeast Texas Community College social work service learning class decided to meet that need by creating a student food pantry.
The social work program is partnering with the Wesley Fellowship ministry to offer The Eagle Food Pantry at the Wesley Building located in front of the main Northeast Texas Community College campus. The pantry, which will open on Dec. 6, will be open the third Thursday of each month from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
“Our students, along with student services, have talked about the need for a food pantry for some time,” Carmen Shurtleff, associate faculty for Social Work said. “Why not create it? I work with the students here but also work with students at [A&M] Commerce… I know that they’ve done it on the Commerce campus and it’s been very successful, so I really wanted to reciprocate that here.”
Kristin Bogart, board of trustees chair at NTCC Wesley Fellowship, said it is an honor to help serve the needs of students.
“Our heart is making sure that students, not only that their souls are fed, but their stomachs are fed,” Bogart said. “This is an excellent partnership for us to be able to connect with students who need a little extra help while they’re getting their education and making sure
studies. We’re happy to do our small part to encourage that to be happening here.”
Both dorm and traditional students will have access to the food pantry.
“It will be two different types of boxes,” Shurtleff said. “It will be one for those who are traditional students [who live at home] and then non-traditional [who live on campus]… If the students live on campus, we’re going to cater to them with things they can microwave…things that are more convenient and easy to open.”
Each November, the Student Government Association hosts a food drive on the NTCC campus. In the past, the items have been donated to local charitable organizations. This year, however, all of the food contributed during the drive will be used to stock the NTCC food pantry. Rico Willis, director of Student Services and Multicultural Affairs, said they also hope to place a stationary donation box in the SUB for year-round donations.
Willis said the office of Student Activities is excited to partner with the Student Government Association, Social Work Club and The Wesley Fellowship Center to implement The Eagle Food Pantry.
“This will provide an opportunity for the campus community to meet the needs of students who are in need of assistance,” Willis said. “Our goal is to replace the moments of going hungry with a meal that can be picked up monthly at The Wesley Fellowship Center that will house The Eagle Food Pantry. It’s a blessing to be able to be in a position to take care of people within our Northeast Texas Community College campus community. Living in unity is the most efficient way to strengthen our campus community.”
The three non-perishable food items that participants will bring for the upcoming One Night in a Cardboard Box event will also be given to the food pantry. Shurtleff said additional food items will be donated through partnerships with on-campus organizations and individuals.
“We’re not just serving our students’ academic needs,” Shurtleff said. It’s just not, ‘Let me advise you on what classes you need to take.’ It’s ‘How can I get clean clothes, I’m hungry, I don’t have a place to live.’ I think that a lot of these issues coming up have been brought to attention through this program as well. Erika Garza, [NTCC Academic Success Coach], and I have collaborated by asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to improve the overall lives of our students, not just help them get into a class and be successful in it?’”
The food pantry will be open to all NTCC students who have a need for food. Shurtleff said it will be solely based on the honor system. Student ID will be required as well as a brief information sheet that the student will need to fill out with each visit.
Shurtleff said the social work service learning class is also considering other means of aid to assist students on campus, including providing washer and dryer services and developing a crisis intervention committee.
“If we help one person then it’s worth it,” Cassie George, NTCC social work student, said. “But we’re hoping to help as many as we can. Starting out, and being our first year, it [the food pantry] might not be very well known on campus and among students, so we’re hoping we can build it, year, after year, and even offer toiletries and household items and things like that… Maybe even a place to take a hot shower.”
The pantry will be advertised to students through flyers, emails, the NTCC blog, the NTCC Social Work Club Facebook page and even an upcoming Instagram page designed exclusively for the food pantry.
“We’re really seeing a population of students who have needs outside [the campus] and if we can help them meet those needs, I think we should do it as a campus,” Shurtleff said. “I think what we invest into our students, we are also going to get back. One of the things I asked my students the first day of service learning was. ‘What is the greatest need?’ One of their comments was the need for being [more] kind, more positive and helping our students here on campus first. So that’s really why we are gearing a lot of our activities to what can we do to improve our campus first and then go outside.”