Tarrant County College Food Pantries Keep Hungry Students Well-Fed Year-Round

No matter their status in life, some people simply can’t afford to buy all the food they need to sustain themselves. This is especially true with college students who have enough to worry about financially with tuition, books, transportation, and potentially living quarters.

To address such food insecurities, Tarrant County College opened food pantries at four of its six campuses. The first was on the Northeast campus in Hurst in 2016 followed by the South, Southeast, and Northwest locations.

The idea originated with sociology professor Cheryl North working through the student ambassador organization.

“It initiated with volunteers facilitating our operations,” said Cara Walker, TCC’s Northeast Campus vice president of student development services and pantry program overseer. “It is the student organization and other student organizations that Cheryl would contact.”

Studies show that about 40% of two-year college students don’t eat enough food.

“That’s a main reason we have four pantries to help offset that,” Cara said. “We’re very attuned to what the basic student in the incoming generations need.”

The Northeast pantry originally opened in a spare office in the NCAB Communications Arts building with shelving, a computer, and a desk available to serve the nearly 10,000 students at the Northeast campus.

“It really took off from there,” Cara added. “It moved to the student center in 2018 near a dock for easy food deliveries and is in an area with refrigeration.

We have non-perishable items. It’s a popular source for our students. We average about 300 monthly visits. Our fresh food markets have 150-200 visits.”

Dr. Courtney Matthews, coordinator for student activities including the pantry at the Northeast campus, said usage has been increasing with the rising costs of groceries.

The pantry operates Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm throughout the calendar year. It also partners with the Tarrant Area Food Bank to host fresh produce markets the second Tuesday of each month during the school year from noon to 3 pm.

“Cheryl is the one who initiated our partnership with the Tarrant Area Food Bank which we’ve been doing for several years,” Cara said.

While the produce markets are open to the public, the food pantries’ mission is focused on students. The Northeast pantry has three student employees plus numerous volunteers.

At the Northeast pantry, students can find various foods from frozen pizzas and quesadillas to baby food to canned products such as broths, soups, and vegetables to fresh foods including cauliflower, lettuce, onions, potatoes, and strawberries. Students can also grab dairy and vegan products.

Non-food items like school supplies, clothing, linen, jewelry, and even financial assistance are also available. Pantry staff can even assist those needing to connect with government-sponsored initiatives including the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). SNAP furnishes food benefits to low-income families while WIC aids infants and children ages five and under.

Besides the Tarrant Area Food Bank, other organizations including Gateway Church, Delta Signa Beta, and Mid-Cities Food Bank assist the pantries. Individual people, plus faculty and staff also have arranged drives to contribute items. There also are luncheons where the cost of the meals is donated to the food banks. And cash donations are always accepted.

“We also have a repository of gift cards,” Cara said. “These come in handy when the pantries are not open or when school is closed.

Our campus is very invested in keeping the food pantry going. We’re lucky we have a great community to support it.”

The program is available to other partnerships and donations. To learn more about those and other details, call 817-515-6141, email ne.foodpantry@tccd.edu, or visit tccd.edu/services/support-services/food-pantries.

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