Many students face this on the larger campuses, but many don’t realize it’s an issue at the community college level as well. Many institutions have implemented food pantries to assist students that may be having a difficult time gaining access to meals. According to Move for Hunger, more than 1 million people in Missouri experience food insecurity.
In 2013, St. Louis Community College’s Meramec campus started its own food pantry, called the Brown Bag Café. It was implemented by staff to assist students suffering from food insecurity. They gather resources from students, staff and members of the community to help provide students with meals and free groceries.
STLCC-Forest Park has launched its own Brown Bag Café Food Pantry. Donna Foster, Tamala Turner and staff at the Harrison Education Center are teaming up to help students on campus who face food insecurity. Although they only have a temporary space right now, that’s not stopping them from feeding students.
“I was motivated to start the food pantry on campus because I know what students have to face and felt like conquering their hunger would be an immediate solution I could help with.” said Foster, a student assistance specialist.
Foster is using these encounters with each student as a way to build relationships and assist with other needs they may have. In fact, she’s referred students to nearby food pantries before starting the one on campus. She thinks that a hungry student can’t focus and constantly must worry about where the next meal will be found. Most of the students who use the food pantry are homeless, which is why Foster also assists students by giving them a list of shelters, hospitals, etc., that can help them.
According to a 2014 survey from the Department of Human Services, people between the ages 18 and 24 make up about 15 percent of the homeless population in St. Louis.
Foster has even taken students to local restaurants to feed them or given money out of her own pocket.
There has never been a time where someone who needed food didn’t get it,” Foster said.
Since opening this fall, the food pantry has served more than 20 students.
Individuals who would like to donate any non-perishable food items or volunteer to help with the food pantry may contact Foster at 314-644-9087 or Turner at 314-644-9027.