College Food Pantry Serves Hundreds, Needs Volunteers

By: Cithera Hinds, Staff Writer

Food insecurity is prevalent on many campuses, but OCCC is working with students and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to implement change on campus, by giving away food to students more than 2,000 times since 2018.

OCCC Pantry, which is located in the Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (SEM) Building, Room 1N1, has been open since September 2018. 

The food pantry helps students have access to non-perishable canned food for free.

“Since opening in September 2018, we’ve had over 645 student visits and 1,721 family members,” Vice President of Student Affairs Jeremy Thomas said in an email. 

“I believe the resource has been very helpful for many students, but we’re just getting started.” 

OCCC students can take canned goods, pasta, cereal, crackers, flour and oil home from the Pantry. They can also obtain personal hygiene products

The Pantry cannot stock perishable items such as meat or fresh produce. However, there are cold foods such as drinks, buns and tortillas that are kept in the refrigerator. 

The OCCC Pantry is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays. 

At this time, the Pantry does not have plans to extend hours and is only open to the college community.

Students are allowed to visit the Pantry once a week. For access, students must just confirm they are currently enrolled by showing their student ID before they shop for the needs of their family.

Thomas said one of the pantry’s goals is student academic success. 

“We know that over 60% of our students who do not return to school, do so for non-academic reasons.  We often refer to this as “life got in the way” issues,” Thomas said in an email.

The food pantry was started by a few faculty members who had an idea and brought it to the attention of OCCC President Jerry Steward.

The faculty stated that there were many students dealing with hunger, Thomas said. 

During a meeting between faculty and President Steward [the president] asked what was one of the main reasons students are not successful and the answer was hunger. 

“The OCCC Pantry is our attempt to help alleviate that concern,” Thomas said. 

OCCC introduced the WeCan! Initiative to fight food insecurity on campus. According to the WeCan! Initiative website, OCCC collaborates with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to obtain food items, which are supplemented by periodic campus food drives. 

OCCC announced in a press release on Sept. 17, 2018 that the Pantry received funding from both corporate and individual donors. The release also noted the Pantry received a grant for 5,000 dollars from the Bank of Oklahoma.     

“We commend OCCC for surveying their students to find out hunger was a real-life need. BOK is honored to help fund the food pantry which will make it possible for their students to further their education,” John Higginbotham, Bank of Oklahoma CEO OKC, said in the press release.

Thomas said the Pantry is in need of volunteers to help staff the OCCC Pantry and in need of food or money donations.  

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