The food pantry at the Westminster campus is ready to provide food, support and resources to Front Range Community College students in need. The grand opening will occur on Feb. 16, from 11:00am to 1:00pm outside of the student life office. The grand opening will feature food from Panera, grocery giveaways, and even a game of grocery bingo.
“We are fully set up with the Food Bank of the Rockies,” said Jessica Jurgella, the faculty member overseeing the pantry. “Currently, we have five students who have done the orientation piece, so they are ready to use [the pantry].” A few students have already begun using the resources that the pantry provides, and Jurgella hopes that more students will seek support when the pantry officially begins offering services on Feb. 16.
Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of education policy and sociology at the University of Wisconsin, recently released a study about hunger among college students. The study observed 4,000 students in 10 community colleges across the United States. Results showed that 52 percent of the students experienced food insecurities in the past 30 days.
Feeding America, a survey done every five years, found that 18 percent of households utilizing the program have at least one college student. The data shows just how much of a need there is for services that the food pantry will provide.
Front Range Community College students interested in using the food pantry must first schedule an appointment with Jurgella. “It takes about 15 minutes to sit and fill out a simple, one-page form collecting basic information. Since Food Bank of the Rockies is federally funded, we’re required to collect the same information they do and a lot of it is demographic … We can see what other resources are available to them in the area.”
Afterwards, students must answer a series questions using check boxes. “[They] ask questions like: ‘Are you interested in body image or nutrition information or sleep or stress management?’ It really gives us an idea of what resources they may be needing,” Jurgella said.
The pantry is part of a bigger program called PEAK, which stands for Peer Educators Advancing Knowledge. PEAK gives students a point person they can go to throughout the semester for support. Students have used this support when they are struggling to pay rent or utilities, or are having a hard time preparing for tests.
The pantry and PEAK can assist students with any issues that prevent them from attaining success. “How do you be successful in the classroom if you’re hungry or don’t know where you’re going to stay that night?” Jurgella asked. PEAK aims to give students answers to these questions so they can focus on their studies.
After students complete the orientation process and figure out where they need assistance, they are given information on various resources located near them, from the pantry’s resource list. If they opt in, they are each paired with a student peer educator, who can support them throughout the semester.
Jurgella offered to help students make calls to support resources. “Sometimes somebody sitting with you and making that first phone call gets them past that barrier of asking for help and helps them develop the skills in terms of what’s important info to tell them and what isn’t,” she said.
Many students need support but are too timid to ask for help. Jurgella noted that students do not have to participate in the peer education program to use the pantry.
Additionally, the system is anonymous. Students are assigned a number to use to sign in and shop in the food pantry. A student can even email items that they need and a food pantry volunteer can set them aside for them to pick up later.
People think that to they must be in need all of the time to be eligible to use The Panty or the other resources offered by PEAK. “That’s not the case. It could just be a rough month,” Jurgella said.
Jurgella also highlighted ways that students can support the pantry. “If you are aware of a student who needs the support, send them our way. The whole referral piece is huge for us,” she said.
Students can also donate food; a list of what is needed is in student life and is available to anyone who wants to help. Next, students can donate money to “The Pantry” through the FRCC Foundation.
Finally, students can volunteer at The Food Bank of the Rockies using the pantry’s account code (contact student life or Jurgella). For every three hours of volunteer time, the pantry will receive 20lbs of food.
Jurgella said that all three options are, “great ways for students to help other students.”
Jessica Jurgella can be reached at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org or found in the student life office, and she is happy to answer questions or guide students through the pantry’s orientation process.
Written by Alex Liethen
Photo from Food Bank of the Rockies