A Canned Response

Tara Centeno, Director of Student Activities and Campus Engagement, New College of Florida

February 15, 2018

Early into the fall semester the student body president at New College of Florida did a campus survey asking about food insecurity, and shared that food insecurity was an issue facing a lot of students. Our office supports campus life, and also houses our AmeriCorps VISTA (who’s focus area is food insecurity).  As a group we started to do a little digging - a lot of other campuses have food pantries, how hard could it be? As many of you know, those are famous last words when rolling out a project.

Although space management and logistics, financial systems, human resources, inventory and use practices were a lot of moving parts - they eventually came together. As this process continued on, we were able to think a little deeper: are they additional ways we can facilitate learning, action, and agency around food insecurity? Brainstorming began, and we decided to move forward with curricular and extracurricular opportunities. First, we decided to offer students the opportunity to volunteer and run the food pantry; those students would go through a brief training on operations, as well as an overview of the issue of food insecurity. Second, we offered two January terms classes that touched on food insecurity (‘Mapping the meal gap’ and ‘the citizen project: a look at homelessness in Manasota’). These courses were a blend of lectures and service opportunities with community partners, in addition to hands on work in the on campus food pantry. This was a powerful sequence. Our students shared that going through this process and addressing food insecurity for college students, as well as being hands on with a variety of agencies, deconstructed and challenged their ideas of what food pantry usage looked like and the stigma they had believed. Through another service opportunity students also heard first hand from recipients and volunteers that importance of asking for help, and that it is okay to seek assistance and apply for aid. They talked about that moment for the next two weeks, and our day working in the on campus food pantry - they were adamant we needed to include information on applying for assistance and government aid in the food pantry.

We’re excited about getting the food pantry open for our campus and surrounding community, and things are falling into place. As we’ve continued to plan and evaluate, new conversations have started - food security, and the topic of food justice is just the beginning!

How does food insecurity affect your communities? Here are some thoughts on addressing them: 

(1) Run a food donation drive.

(2) Gather information about local food banks and pantries and make it accessible to those in need.

(3) Spend time volunteering (not just you, but your workplace!).

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