Though students may face numerous challenges during their higher education journeys, hunger should never be one of them. Unfortunately, food insecurity is one of the leading public health challenges on college and university campuses.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. A recent survey of 195,000 students conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice found that 38 percent of students attending two-year colleges and 29 percent of students at four-year schools reported experiencing food insecurity in the previous 30 days.
Food insecurity can significantly impact a student’s ability to persevere in their education and reach their goals. Research shows that many college students experience shame and mental health issues in connection to food insecurity. To combat this problem, TCC currently offers several resources that address basic needs, underscoring the College’s commitment to serving all students and supporting their academic success. One of the key ways TCC works to alleviate hunger is through the operation of food pantries at TCC Northeast, South and Southeast campuses. Research shows that many college students experience shame and mental health issues in connection to food insecurity.
Students (from any campus) who find themselves food insecure can visit one of the three food pantries offering free food assistance during the week.
Food pantry operators hope to raise awareness about these important campus resources. “Most students learn about the pantry through faculty members who tell them or make a classroom announcement,” said Cheryl North, founder of the campus food pantry and sociology instructor at TCC Northeast. “They also learn about the pantry through new student orientation, campus flyers, word of mouth, campus events, the TCC website and numerous articles that have run in The Collegian [TCC’s student-run newspaper].”
Launched in 2016, TCC Northeast’s food pantry was the first such resource in the District. It offers various goods—fresh and frozen items—free of charge to visitors.
Any student or employee who needs help meeting their food needs to any degree should consider visiting the food pantry. They can do anything from grocery shopping for the week to help feed their family, to grabbing a nutritious snack during the school day if they’re hungry.
Founder, TCC Northeast Food Pantry
If students are unable to visit the food pantry during operating hours, they can drop by the distribution desk in the library to pick up a sack lunch. This gives students access to the food they need to live a healthy life.
Donations from the campus community and area partners go a long way in helping stock the shelves. For example, student organizations will fundraise or host an event to benefit the pantry. The food pantry also receives donations from local churches, civic organizations and community partners. Additionally, thanks to TCC Northeast’s ongoing relationship with Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB), students and others can visit the fresh food market held on the first Tuesday of every month in the Student Center. This market helps ensure access to fruits and vegetables, which are harder to store in traditional pantry locations.
Together, these resources make a significant difference. “Across the District, we have thousands of students who rely on our pantries either to help provide nutritious meals to them and their families or to make sure they are not facing hunger as they go about their school day,” said North. “We provide a safety net, and therefore stability of food supply, which helps to alleviate a large concern that many of our students face. In this way we promote student success by addressing this area of stress in their lives and allowing them to focus on their education.”
Students interested in giving back can volunteer in the food pantries and receive service-learning hours for their work. In fact, many TCC students complete their service learning for class projects in the food pantry.
Students visiting TCC South’s food pantry, located in the Student Center, can find snack and grocery items, toiletries, personal hygiene items and school supplies. The food pantry’s primary support comes from donations provided by campus faculty, staff and area nonprofits and other partners.
“We continue to receive canned goods, but students who come in for lunch need quick-fix meals,” said Allison Knott, coordinator of the Family Empowerment Center at TCC South. “We will continue our efforts to get certain items the students have either expressed interest in or could benefit from being stocked in our pantry.”
The TCC South food pantry currently serves approximately 25 people every month, yet they have the capacity to serve more.
“Although the TCC South food pantry is seeing increasing numbers in visits, there are a couple reasons students may be hesitant to visit more regularly,” said Knott. “As a college student, when it seems as though your peers have it better than you, you do not want your insecurities to be visible. It intensifies the shame a student feels. We are striving daily to create a warm, welcoming environment in the food pantry, so students know we care and support them.”
The food pantry at TCC Southeast is set up like a grocery store, where students can visit and shop for a variety of things that they need, not just food. “This made the load of figuring out how to get food or basic household items a little easier,” said Doug Peak, director of student development services.
Now students can focus on their academics without worrying about how they are going to get food on the table.
Director of Student Development Services, TCC Southeast
Each week, approximately 110 people visit the food pantry. Understanding that anyone may be dealing with hunger, the campus also allows TCC employees to visit the pantry for food assistance.
A collaboration with the culinary and dietetics departments continues to deliver additional value to people visiting the food pantry at TCC Southeast. For example, culinary students pack fresh snacks for pantry shoppers and the Dietetics program hosts food demonstrations during the semester. For example, they’ve taught students about healthy snacks and, how to cook a healthy pasta dinner.
In addition to the brick-and-mortar food pantry, TCC Southeast partners with Arlington Charities to bring mobile food markets to the campus on the third Friday of each month.
Community Food Markets at TCC Northwest
TCC Northwest offers students, employees and members of the public an opportunity to shop for free at a monthly Community Food Market, hosted in partnership with TAFB and Community Link, a food bank serving northwest Fort Worth. Typically staffed by 15 to 20 TCC volunteers, this mobile market provides fresh produce and proteins at not cost. The market, typically held on the third Friday of each month, serves roughly 300 families at each opening. Attendees, who bring their own bags and carts to transport their items, are not required to prove need or income.
Please visit the food pantries and Community Food Market page to ask about donations, or for additional information.