For many college students, juggling school and work doesn’t just put constraints on their time but also their incomes. Some cut back on work to ensure adequate time for their classes and schoolwork. Others quit their jobs altogether. That loss of income can be disruptive and can force a student to choose between paying for a meal or for something school-related such as gas or books.
Here at Windward Community College, however, there is a food pantry to help students dealing with these problems. Created in 2015 by Nani Pagan and other members of Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i-Windward Community College (ASUH-WCC), the program’s goal is to help students so that food and hunger are not issues that stop or hinder their education.
The food pantry, which is the first of its kind in the UH system, provides food for any student in need–no questions asked and no eligibility requirements. Anyone on campus can get food if they need it.
Food packs consist of everything one would need to prepare a few meals. There are the usual canned good items like chicken noodle soup, chili, SPAM, tuna and Vienna sausage as well as starches like rice, pasta and ramen noodles.
Small snacks such as crackers, granola bars, chips or cereal may also be in the packs, although contents differ depending on the donations. The packs can be picked up in numerous locations or “food destinations” on campus.
“We want to make sure there’s no shame in picking up food, so we distribute this food in different locations,” said WCC student life coordinator Kaahu Alo. “Students may choose by whom or where they are more comfortable picking up their packages from. The food can be picked up by any student at anytime without having to speak to or notify anyone. This system was created this way for students to remain anonymous if they choose to.”
WCC student Devin Acoba said that he sometimes avoids going out for food and instead pours a bowl of cereal or makes saimin or a sandwich in part to save money.
While he hasnʻt used the food pantry, he said, “I could see how this program could help someone’s economic state and their quality of life as a student, and I’m thankful for this.”
Alo said that while no one will ever be turned down, it is preferred that participants of the program are WCC students, just to ensure there are enough resources to go around.
This is subject to change though, as the program would like to grow with the community and eventually offer other necessities such as hygienic items and toiletries.
The program is always accepting donations. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off at Hale ‘Ākoakoa 233, TRiO, Hale La‘akea 232 and at some WCC student life events.
“We are always trying to find creative ways to encourage more donations,” said ASUH-WCC president Bernadette Rose Garrett. At last monthʻs Welcome Back event, for instance, raffle tickets were given out for every canned good donated.
For more information on the program, contact Kaahu Alo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Rick Oania-Elam, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter