November 13, 2023 – In 2021, 580 Santa Fe College students were asked how often they were hungry because they did not have enough money for food. Approximately 65% responded that they never or rarely skipped meals, leaving the remaining 35% to reveal a startling truth: they sometimes or always went hungry.
Hunger can have a profound impact on a person’s life beyond just physical and mental health. It can also deflate one’s highest aspirations. How can someone focus on their academic career when they are struggling to find their next meal? How can they best serve themselves and their community on an empty stomach?
Saints Food Share strives to reduce food insecurities and connect students to resources that could transform their lives. Tracey Reeves, Ph.D., Student Life Director, and Sarah Blanc, Civic Engagement and Service Office Specialist, lead the charge to break down the obstacles separating SF students from a meal.
Beginning as a volunteer operation in what was basically a closet, Food Share has grown into an SF-supported department. 30 to 40 bags now go out every week.
The program gets the bulk of its food via donations. SF events like the recent Boo at the Zoo is the year’s biggest food drive, typically bringing in over 1,000 lbs. of food. The 2023 edition brought in almost 6,000 canned goods.
The Food Share team recommends students call ahead to set up a personalized week’s worth of groceries, usually canned goods or non-perishable items. Students can receive food weekly, semiweekly, monthly or even once. The choice is theirs.
The team also works with students to meet dietary requirements. For example, if someone has a gluten-free diet, Food Share will check to make sure the food is okay. Students get what they need instead of throwing away what they can’t eat.
Students can also get easily-made food if they don’t have full kitchen access. Pre-made bags are usually ready for those dropping in along with grab-and-go snacks. Personal products become available as they come in. A fruit-with-skin pilot program is coming soon to get healthier fare out there.
Dr. Reeves and Blanc want to make it easier for embarrassed students to feel more comfortable receiving food. Items are placed in Student Life bags and can be picked up at the Student Life front desk in Building S on SF’s Northwest Campus. Perhaps the most important takeaway is that SF students do not have to prove need.
The Food Share team will also direct students to other valuable resources like TRIO, a variety of federally-funded programs designed to help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education through support and guidance for college preparation and collegiate success. They have even helped people change their surnames in their SF email profiles.
From a tiny storage closet to Building S, Saints Food Share continues Santa Fe College’s mission to add value to the lives of our students and enrich our community.
For information about Saints Food Share, visit https://www.sfcollege.edu/studentlife/student-resources/food-pantry/.