Food bank meets need on Marple campus

By Andrew Henry

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The F.E.R.B program at DCCC provides food with nutritional value such as fruit and Gatorade to help hungry students make it through their day. The snacks are packed into white bags kept in the Campus Life office. Photo by Andrew Henry

It’s no secret that being a college student can be challenging. Sitting in a classroom for more than an hour, focusing on what the teacher is saying, all the while taking notes, not to mention having to study those notes for hours on end to retain the information.

Now imagine having to do that on an empty stomach.

Some may not have to imagine. For some, this is a reality.

Food insecurity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “unable to consistently access or afford adequate food.”

In other words, some students do not eat because they simply cannot afford to.

This issue is quite common on college campuses, according to a report published by Students Against Hunger, which reports the rate of food insecurity among college students as four times greater than the national average.

DCCC offers programs that help those struggling with food insecurities.

Kathy Schank, an associate professor of social work at DCCC since 2008, is also the faculty advisor to the Social Work Club.

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An instructional placard outlining how to gain access to the food provided by the F.E.R.B program stands behind a sample of what one might find in a bag acquired from Campus Life on Marple campus. Photo by Andrew Henry

The club, along with Campus Life, noticed an ongoing problem on the Marple campus and other DCCC branch campuses.

Students are hungry.

Counselors also took notice and began bringing food to their offices, according to Schank.

Water bottles, snack bars, and other small snacks were brought in to help students make it through the day, but staff saw that it was not enough.

At a meeting with the Social Work Club during the 2011-12 academic year then Campus Life director Amy Williams Gaudioso suggested a solution: creating a food bank on DCCC’s Marple campus.

The Social Work Club agreed, and within one and a half years a program called the Food Emergency Resource Bank, or FERB, was created in spring of 2014.

“We asked for donations toward the food bank from the college community,” Schank said. “And we have been getting a great response ever since.”

Food bank items are selected based on nutritional value, and what would best help students make it through their day.

The food bank at DCCC is located in the Student Center, Room 1180.

Students can approach a counselor and simply tell her that they have a “food emergency.” Students will then receive a ticket that is to be taken to the front desk at Campus Life. They will be given a bag of food from the food bank with no questions asked.

The next step for the food bank is to expand into a larger facility and have it be manned by student volunteers. A team is actively working on the expansion and finding space to do it.

The food bank is also linked to a program called Keystone Education Yields Success, or K.E.Y.S, located in Room 2170 on DCCC’s Marple campus. The program is directed by Susan Bennett.

K.E.Y.S is designed to help recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) succeed in community college, according to their page on DCCC’s website.

The program supplies lunch vouchers, financial assistance, and rewards for students based on their academic achievements.

“There are students that are eligible for K.E.Y.S, and just haven’t signed up,” Bennett said. “If you received the Pell grant, you are more than likely eligible.”

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An instructional placard outlines how one might gain access to the food provided by the F.E.R.B program. Photo by Andrew Henry

The program also provides free transportation, childcare, and gives students information about other programs for which students may be eligible.

If a student wants to check his eligibility, he can visit http://www.compass.state.pa.us.

A questionnaire takes about two minutes to complete.

“[Food insecurities are] one symptom of a larger systemic issue,” said Allyson Gleason, director of Campus Life. However, she does feel that the food bank has made an impact on students’ lives.

If you or someone you know is struggling with finding your next meal, contact the Career and Counseling Center on Marple Campus.

Contact Andrew Henry at communitarian@dccc.mail.edu