A growing number of community colleges in Connecticut are opening food pantries to serve not only their students, but also part-time faculty. Tunxis and Middlesex Community Colleges have both just launched pantries.
Faculty member Judith Felton says because Middlesex Community College is tight for space, their food pantry is in an old retrofitted bus “…that really had been a party bus. It really looked like something Elvis had lived in. And we partnered with our local technical high school, and those students ripped out the inside and built shelves.”
Anyone with a Middlesex Community College ID can pick up 20 items a month. There’s a grab-and-go section, so students or staff can come in everyday and just grab a granola bar if they want.
Amy Fest teaches at Tunxis. She says, “I had a student in my class about two years ago who had come to me because he was living in his car. And he did not have food.” She says she was able to provide that student with vouchers to their cafeteria to try and hold him over until his situation improved.
“Knowing that there was a great need on campus, we found an empty office that is not very big, and we went around the college and found some old shelving and put it in there and through donations of our employees and our students, we have our shelves completely stocked.”
To address concerns about stigma, pantries at both schools are located far from campus.
“Student volunteers are trained. There’s protocol to follow. Volunteers are told, you know, you may see this student in Stop and Shop down the street. And if they approach you, that’s fine. But do not go up and say ‘I saw you at the food pantry.’”
Fest says, “Or you may be sitting in class next them.”
“More likely,” says Felton.
Tunxis Community College estimates that more than 60 percent of its students face food insecurity.
This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.