For many, food insecurity has remained a constant issue before and during the pandemic. Organizations and community centers, including Pierce College, that would regularly distribute food to students have had to adjust the way they do so in order to keep staff and recipients safe.
“It’s a frustrating but also an understandable difficulty that we have to balance the safety of our students and making sure that we aren’t contributing to the spread of the virus, but also trying our best to get students what they need,” said Walter Lutsch, the student engagement specialist at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.
Resources for free food at Pierce College that were only available while the campuses were open have become unavailable to students while classes are held remotely. The most utilized resource was the Food Pantry, where students could pick up necessary food and hygiene products for free.
Staff on both campuses have worked to bring the Food Pantry to students, all while following strict safety guidelines. Fort Steilacoom had a Food and Hygiene Pantry Curbside Pickup Program event on Dec. 7 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We started doing this event at the end of last spring to create as close of an experience we can to the in-person Food Pantry,” said Lutsch. “and we were pretty successful with that and had about thirty to forty people coming out to pick up items.”
For this event, students were asked to submit an order form detailing what they needed and what time they’d arrive on campus. Food items like canned goods, pasta, rice, snacks and beverages were packaged and handed out. Hygiene products like soap, shampoos, diapers and menstrual hygiene products were also available.
“It’s nice and simple because they just fill out the order form in advance, tell us the 30-minute window they’ll be by and we make up that bag then put it in their car after they tell us their name,” said Lutsch.
Staff at the Puyallup campus were also able to have a curbside food pickup event, taking place on campus Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The same safety measures were implemented with social distancing, a small staff handing out items and contactless pickup.
The event was a success, according to its organizers, and brought in a good amount of students in need of food and hygiene supplies.
“Given the time restraint since we did it so last minute, the event definitely exceeded expectations with what we thought might be the outcome,” said Jaspreet Kaur, the operations senator at Pierce College Puyallup.
A total of 51 responses from students came back from the food pickup event survey that was emailed out, with 46 students showing up to the event and collecting their food and hygiene supply bags.
With the success of the event, Kaur explained that the possibility of having more food and hygiene curbside pickup events is definitely in the picture.
“We would like to be able to do this event about every two weeks or once a month, if possible, in order to help students as much as we can,” said Kaur.
To further prepare for food donation opportunities this winter, Kaur is working on an email to send out to Pierce College students and staff asking for donations to the food pantry. The email will inform students and staff about the need for donations and how they can donate if they’re interested.
Kaur is also preparing a survey to send out to staff and students about volunteer opportunities for the event in the future.
“It’s for anyone who needs volunteer hours or would just like to help. They would help package and distribute the grocery bags,” said Kaur.
This is if campus security approves having a certain amount of students on campus for volunteer purposes at some point during winter of spring quarter. Since students aren’t allowed on the campus as of now, volunteer opportunities for this recent event were unavailable.
Staff at Fort Steilacoom are working on making their Food and Hygiene Pantry Curbside Pickup Program a monthly occurrence as well. Additionally, they’re working on implementing more food donation resources for the rest of the school year.
This year, the Fort Steilacoom Office of Student Life has an official Food and Hygiene Pantry sub-committee of the student government to handle the pickup events.
“We had a meeting recently discussing the situation right now and what we want to do going forward, and we framed it in terms of what we would want to do if everything worked out,” said Lutsch.
Currently, their plans are to set a budget for the event to sustainably fund it throughout the school year. Since the event is relatively new, data including how many people usually come cannot be formed yet. Lutsch explained that the more they have curbside events, the more students will know about it and come out.
Anyone in need of food, regardless of if they’re a Pierce College student or not, can also go to the Nourish mobile food bank on Tuesdays from 1 – 3 p.m. at the Fort Steilacoom campus.
Students can stay informed on food donation events and updates by visiting Pierce College Fort Steilacoom or Puyallup Student Life web pages, and following both campuses’ Office of Student Life Instagram pages (@puy_osl and @pcfsstudentlife).
Story reprinted with permission from The Puyallup Post.
Reprinted, with permission, from the Pierce College website.