Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

Del Mar College opens food pantry to address student hunger

Valdar the Viking welcomed visitors to the newly opened Viking Food Pantry April 18 at Del Mar College.

Pantry is operated in partnership with Coastal Bend Food Bank, supported by Student Government Association

This morning, Del Mar College (DMC) students and administrators gathered to celebrate the opening of the Viking Food Pantry in the Harvin Student Center on the East Campus.

With the pantry, the College hopes to stem an unfortunate reality among some students who, because of issues like hunger, have difficulty achieving their educational goals.

“There are students who’ve asked for assistance with food,” said Diana Ortega-Feerick, Ed.D., DMC assistant dean of Student Engagement and Retention. “One student told us she has to choose if she’s going to feed her children or herself. She chooses her children. Hearing these stories, we know there’s a need for the food pantry.”

Food insecurity – a lack of consistent access to enough food for all household members to enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle – often causes students to skip classes, withdraw from courses or opt out of buying textbooks they need, Ortega-Feerick said. Some just drop out of college.

Research shows that one in seven people in Texas struggle with hunger, Ortega-Feerick added, and that food insecurity is more common among community college and first-generation students.

At today’s ceremony, Valdar the Viking broke through a paper banner covering the pantry’s doorway, symbolically breaking down the hunger barrier. The pantry is located in Bluebonnet Room 112 of the Harvin Student Center. 

DMC’s Student Government Association (SGA) was asked in September if they would consider providing startup funds from student fees to create the pantry. They unanimously voted “yes.”

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Natasha Perez, SGA president. “As a student, I’ve had classmates who are affected by hunger. I’m excited to do something about the problem and be part of the change.” 

Students in need can come twice a month to the pantry and take up to 35 lbs. of food each visit, which feeds a family of four for a week, Ortega-Feerick said.

Food offerings can change over time but will include canned tuna, chicken, stew, chili, pork and beans, soups and vegetables, as well as peanut butter, fruit, rice, pasta, cereal and oatmeal. Reusable bags will be offered to students using the pantry.

In the works for over a year, the pantry is operated in partnership with the Coastal Bend Food Bank. Food is purchased from the Food Bank for a minimal charge and delivered to DMC, and those working in the pantry – student volunteers chosen through DMC’s Viking Volunteer Program – must go through training to be food handlers.

“The Viking Food Pantry may not eliminate all the factors that lead to hunger, but it’s a major step toward lessening these trends among our students at Del Mar College,” said Cheryl Sanders, DMC dean of Student Engagement and Retention.

Anyone interested in donating food items to the Viking Food Pantry can do so directly to the Coastal Bend Food Bank at 826 Krill St. Before donating, Ortega-Feerick said, it’s important to first send an email to foodpantry@delmar.edu and ask what items are needed and acceptable. 

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