Southeast Arkansas College, in partnership with the Southeast Arkansas College Foundation and the Arkansas Food Bank, has announced the opening of an on-campus food pantry for all currently enrolled SEARK students, faculty, and staff. The food pantry will be in the General Studies North building to assist as a supplement to the nutritional needs of individuals and families.
According to Lisa Gober, Director of Career Pathways and Food Pantry Project Lead, “Even though you don’t hear about it often, hunger is an issue. Knowing there is such a need for not only our students, but our faculty and staff as well. We are grateful for a chance to help.” Gober also stated “With the support of both President Bloomberg and the Southeast Arkansas College Foundation, we will anticipate making our first food distribution in mid-March.”
Tami Watts, Coordinator of Community Outreach and member of the Food Pantry Project Committee pointed out that “Student hunger is not new, but until recently food access at colleges and universities has not received as much attention as it deserves. Stigmas associated with poverty, homelessness, and food assistance programs have reinforced a lack of visibility of food security on college campuses.” Watts further explained “the SEARK Food Pantry is the first step in efforts to help students overcome the real effects of food insecurity.”
A recent study conducted by Feeding America found that 1 in 5 college students suffer from food insecurity. SEARK President Steven Bloomberg said “learning when you are hungry is difficult but learning when you are chronically hungry is almost impossible.” Bloomberg also stated “We as a college are examining different efforts that can help the student in all aspects of their life both inside and outside of the classroom.”
The college plans to distribute once a month to approximately 50 households. There are also plans to expand sometime in the future. The distribution would include three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners for each person in the households. The college has targeted mid-March for the first food distribution.
For information on the SEARK Food Pantry or how to donate, contact Lisa Gober or Tami Watts at Southeast Arkansas College, office of Career Pathways @ 870-543-5969 or foodpantryseark.edu