Hungry? Need a toothbrush? SPSCC's new food pantry can help

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Article via The Olympian
by Lisa Pemberton

A new Food Pantry opened for students on Thursday at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.

It will be open three days a week, and offers free non-perishable food items, hygiene kits and children’s books.

Kate Armstrong, SPSCC’s past student senator of legislative affairs, helped establish the program after hearing a woman’s story at the Washington Community Technical College Student Association meeting.

“She told me she was living outside the school, eating through the dumpster and showering in the locker room before class,” Armstrong said. “She said that 15 other students did that with her, and some of them were as young as 18. That was incredibly hard to hear.”

A 2015 study from Urban Institute found that 13 percent of community college students experience food insecurity, which is not having reliable access to adequate amounts of affordable and nutritious food.

Nationally, more colleges are launching food pantries to help students who are hungry and don’t have enough money for food.

In 2009, there were fewer than 10 campus food pantries in the country, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance. As of Sept. 28, the College and University Food Bank Alliance had 545 registered members.

Also in Olympia, The Evergreen State College has a 24-hour food pantry offered by its Police Services.

“They’ve had this for a couple years, and before that they had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich making station in their lobby that was open 24 hours a day,” said college spokesman Zach Powers. “The food pantry is stocked by individual donations from Evergreen police officers, staff and faculty and also by donations from Evergreen Dining Services.”

SPSCC’s Food Pantry will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays in the Student Union Building.

It is a partnership between SPSCC’s Student Senate, the SPSCC Foundation and the Thurston County Food Bank. The hygiene kits will be provided by the YWCA of Olympia and the books will be available through the South Sound Reading Foundation.

Armstrong said she wanted to create the program because “homelessness and access to food are not isolated incidents.” She plans to establish a similar program at Western Washington University, where she is now studying political science.