SEMINOLE – While St. Petersburg College Seminole campus students wait for this semester’s financial aid to be disbursed, Student Government has set up a pop-up food pantry to address the needs of food insecure students at the school.
“We thought that since financial aid disburses (Sept. 20) that we should make sure all students aren’t going hungry in class,” said Noora Khaleel, Student Government president. “When you’re hungry in class, it’s difficult to pay attention, and your grades drop. We don’t want them to worry about having to go to class hungry.”
The pop-up food pantry is set up outside the student lounge in the college’s University Partnership Center. It’s near an exit, which makes it easy to “grab and go,” said Provost Mark Strickland. This accessibility alleviates the embarrassment some might feel about needing to rely on the food pantry, he said.
“You can grab something and two seconds later you’re out the door, without anyone noticing,” he said.
The pop-up food pantry is in addition to a permanent food pantry, also located in the student lounge, Strickland said. He launched the food pantry four years ago when he joined the campus.
According to national data, nearly 50 percent of community college students “have some level of food insecurity,” he said. “They’re not eating on a regular basis.”
He added, “This (data) was compelling enough to make me want to do something. If you’re not nourished, how are you prepared to walk into a classroom and learn?”
Many students rely on their financial aid to supplement their living expenses, which is why this is such a crucial time of year to assist food insecure students.
The SPC Seminole food pantry distributes a significant amount of food to students, he said.
“You wouldn’t believe how much food has been taken from the table (in just one day recently),” Strickland said.
Khaleel was impressed by the number of donations SPC contributed.
“There have been a lot of donations, a lot of contributions,” she said. “It’s encouraging. Everyone is doing this out of the goodness of their heart.”
She and Strickland encourage anyone in the Seminole community, whether they attend SPC or not, to donate food items to the pop-up and permanent pantries. They’re looking for non-perishable goods and microwavable items that can be heated and eaten on campus in between classes.