One in three college students only have enough money to choose between paying for food or paying for education, according to a 2014 Hunger In America study. Starting in the spring, TJC will have a charitable option to help those students.
“We’re looking to do just a monthly food pantry,” said Lauren Tyler, director of Student Life. “Most likely to be on a Thursday from 5-7 as a client-choice model. So, students will sort of have a shopping cart list, and they can check off what they eat.”
Student Life is leading the charge with Apache Pantry, a project in conjunction with East Texas Food Bank. This will be the first college-run food pantry in East Texas, which may hopefully inspire other local colleges to follow suit.
“A lot of the common perception is that these are college students who have money to go to school, they’re just not responsible with their money,” said Michael Hetrick, online communications manager at East Texas Food Bank. “There’s a lot of people that we serve that are very responsible with their money, they just don’t have enough of it to make ends meet.”
The pantry is tentatively scheduled to begin serving in January of 2017 and will be housed where the campus clinic used to be on the second floor of Rogers Student Center. East Texas Food Bank will be the pantry’s main provider.
“We’re excited about opening a pantry on the campus at TJC,” said Jennifer Barnes, agency services representative at East Texas Food Bank. “We have access to basically the same products, but at a much lower rate.”
Although the food bank will be Apache Pantry’s primary source of products, there will also be an “adopt-a-shelf” system of donations where TJC organizations will be able to “adopt” a specific kind of food to donate. Throughout each semester, the student organizations will focus their food donations on whatever shelf they have adopted. This system is geared toward helping organizations make intentional goals for food drives and donations.
“TJC’s going to start their pantry on strictly shelf-stable items,” said Barnes. “No refrigeration or freezer yet, but we hope to grow into that. We want students to have access to full meal options. … I don’t want a student at TJC or a family in Tyler to go to a pantry and pick up stuff that I wouldn’t feed to my family.”
But students struggling for food don’t have to wait until January for a free meal. The Association of Baptist Students, Wesley House and Baptist Student Ministry serve free food on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, respectively. Additionally, the BSM is also known for their pancakes and bacon served on Thursday evenings.
“Our mission statement for our free lunch has to do with representing the love of Christ as we seek to meet physical and social needs, and also connect people with a Christian community,” said Mark Jones, director of the TJC BSM.
Jones also believes that the Apache Pantry will open up options for students who may have separate personal or religious obligations.
“We try to really embrace the community that is TJC,” said Jones. “But people are going to go into Rogers Student Center for that food pantry who may not want or feel comfortable coming into a Christian ministry. I get that, too.”
Apache Pantry will also be utilizing the resources already provided by Residential Life’s HUGS Closet (Helping Us Graduate Successfully). HUGS was a program originally created by Phi Theta Kappa, but has since been passed to Residential Life.
“For the last semester, it has been RHA doing all of it. Last year, we served over 80 students, both residential and non-residential,” said Patti Light, assistant director of Residential Life.
HUGS has been a source for faculty-referred students in need of simple essentials such as linens, personal hygiene items and other things students may occasionally be in need of.
“What we’re going to do with Apache Pantry is that the school supply part of HUGS and the personal care items are all going to go to Apache Pantry,” said Light. “So students can also request those items, and it will be packed with their food.”