New food pantry opens to feed hungry SRJC students

Santa+Rosa+Junior+College+students+lined+up+to+get+free+food+in+the+quad+dispersed+by+the+new+food+pantry+as+part+of+Welcome+Week+on+Sept.+13+at+the+Santa+Rosa+campus.

Charlotte Maxwell

Santa Rosa Junior College students lined up to get free food in the quad dispersed by the new food pantry as part of Welcome Week on Sept. 13 at the Santa Rosa campus.

Brandon McCapes, Staff Writer

Students lined up to fill bags with free fruits, vegetables and bread amid Welcome Week celebrations on the quad on Sept. 13, marking the expansion of a food pantry started by the Phi Theta Kappa honor society in 2014.

Food distribution occurs on the Santa Rosa Campus 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at Barnett Hall on Mondays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Barnett Hall Tuesdays, and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays on the quad.

The new food pantry will operate three days a week and is the result of collaboration between the honor society, the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Basic Needs Resource Center, student government officials said.

Ellen Hickman, President of Phi Theta Kappa, and Ryan Sansome, Vice President of Student Health, helped passing students gather the free food at the inaugural event.

“There are a lot of students who come to us who don’t get food every day and they go to class hungry,” Hickman said. “That was the main inspiration of the people who started the food distribution at Phi Theta Kappa.”

Phi Theta Kappa has run a food bank out of Barnett Hall twice a week for several years, but Hickman is excited that the expansion includes Wednesdays on the quad.

“We’re very proud and happy to have the help of student government and to extend the days so that more people can get fed,” Hickman said.

The expansion resulted from the efforts of many student leaders in SGA and other clubs and organizations. “This was a collaborative effort between all the officers in student government to really get on the same page and come up with a plan to be able to give students free food every single week,” Sansome said.

Santa Rosa Junior College student Esmeralda Vargas, who took advantage of the free food, agreed that hunger is a real problem facing students and that the food pantry is very helpful.

“It’s great. Students need to focus on school and it’s great to have this resource for us,” Vargas said.

A survey of 33,000 community college students published by the University of Wisconsin in March 2017 found that two out of three students are food insecure and 14 percent are homeless.

“The starving student stereotype shouldn’t have to apply to the students at the JC,” Sansome said.

Sabrina Rawson, Student Trustee, wanted students to know their school cares about the difficulties students face feeding themselves.

“There’s a problem and we’re working really hard to fix it,” Rawson said. “We’re working to provide solutions, not just a band-aid.”

The involved organizations teamed up with the Redwood Empire Food Bank to distribute donated food, which will provide over 500 pounds of food each week. Redwood Empire provides produce for the pantry at no cost and sells the dry goods at a mere 19 cents per pound.

Other resources are also available to students struggling to meet basic needs at the Student Health Center in Race Hall and the Basic Needs Resource Center (formerly the the CyBear Center) in Bertolini Hall.