Community college food pantries across San Diego County are asking the public for support to ensure that no student goes hungry over the holidays.
New food pantries at Southwestern College and San Diego Mesa College are part of the ongoing effort to help feed students, according to the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association (SDICCCA).
“Community college students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and many are struggling to get by,” said MiraCosta College President/Superintendent Sunny Cooke, who serves as president of SDICCCA, in a statement. “Our colleges have made it a priority to do what they can to make an impact on reducing hunger not only on our campuses, but also in our communities."
Eighty percent of students have experienced food insecurity, with many students opting to skip meals in an effort to make ends meet, according to a recent study at Southwestern College.
MiraCosta college recently finished its "Scare Away Hunger" campaign that sought to replenish the Food Pantry's supplies, according to SDICCCA. Palomar College has also completed a Stock the Bank project that supplied their food pantry with over 1,300 food items, such as canned goods, cereal and pasta.
The San Diego Community College District has launched a number of initiatives to combat hunger, with a food pantry offering emergency lunch items to students in need. Interns at their Small Business Entrepreneurship Program work as staff for the pantry, and distribute food to about 200 to 250 students per week, according to SDICCCA.
Southwestern College opened a food pantry called the Jag Kitchen last October, as well as a Fall Food Drive to help feed students in the holiday season.
“I remember what it was like to go to school hungry,” said Southwestern College’s Child Development Center Director Patricia Bartow, who helped launch the new Jag Kitchen, in a statement. “Seeing my students go hungry the past few years made me realize the problem hasn’t gone away. Today I am honored to open these doors so we can work together to help students who are in need.”
An SDICCCA official said national surveys are showing large numbers of college students going hungry because they can't afford to buy food. A recent report from the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness indicated that nearly half of 3,700 students in 12 states experienced food insecurity within the past month.