New food pantries at Clovis Community College feed into student success

Cereal, canned goods and other items are available for students to pick up at the CCC food pantries. CHRISTIAN MATTOS/CLOVIS ROUNDUP

Being a college student can be tough. Between part-time jobs, a loaded academic schedule and maintaining a social life, it can be hard to even find the time – or money – to eat.

But thanks to the new food pantries at Clovis Community College, students have one less thing to worry about.

Two food pantries opened in August at both the CCC locations. At the Clovis campus, the pantry can be found in the Health Services office while the Herndon campus houses the main pantry at the student lounge cafe.

Director of communications Stephanie Babb said that 300 students have visited the food pantries since their opening. Some students stop in for a midday snack while others fill a bag of groceries to take home.

“What we found is students were talking to either their counselors or our staff or their teachers just about issues they deal with, and a lot of it is food insecurity,” Babb said.

Many college students struggle with food insecurity, which is defined as being without access to affordable and healthy food.

According to a 2016 report published on the National Students Against Hunger and Homelessness Campaign website, 48 percent of college student respondents noted struggling with food insecurity within the past 30 days. At community colleges, 25 percent of student respondents reported low food security.

At CCC, Babb said that 54 percent of students qualify for financial aid, which could be an indicator of financial issues that could later attribute to food insecurity. Implementing a food pantry on campus was one success initiative for students to take advantage of.

“In the big picture, if somebody’s hungry, they’re not going to be successful in school,” Babb said. “We’re letting students access the food pantry as much as they need or as frequently as they need to.”

The pantries are currently stocked with dried goods – “You go from snack foods for kids in between classes to uncooked rice and beans and spaghetti sauce so they can make a full meal,” said Richard Parnell, a student aid working at the Herndon pantry.

Also in the inventory are baking goods, condiments, toiletries and even baby food for students with little ones at home.

In some cases, the food pantry has played a direct role in helping students succeed. Parnell recalled one student who was transitioning living arrangements and spent time living in their car. Parnell said he taught them how to cook easy meals with the food at the pantry.

But students are able to visit the pantries regardless of their living situation, income or any other factors – they only need to provide a name and ID number.

“It’s a non-judgmental zone, and we want to make sure students know that this is here for them, and no questions are going to be asked other than if they’re a current student,” Babb said. “We’re meeting the need wherever they’re at.”

The pantries are currently being stocked through a partnership with the Central California Food Bank. Babb said that the state of California provides designated funds that go toward delivery fees charged by item weight. In order to sustain the pantries for the future, the college has begun fundraising efforts, both food and monetary, through the State Center Community College Foundation.