The Orca Food Pantry provides non-perishable food and hygiene products to students at Whatcom Community College in an effort to combat student food insecurity.
Thirty-nine percent of students at two-year institutions faced food insecurity according to a March 2021 Hope Center for College, Community and Justice #RealCollegeSurvey. Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as a household with “limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”
Quan Duong, coordinator for Student Life and Development at Whatcom said when students are unable to access basic needs—food, water, shelter— it can be stressful and students may have trouble completing their classes or going to work. He said the Orca Food Pantry currently services a few students per day on average.
“Food insecurity can promote more problematic issues, such as students might feel unmotivated or low energy, ” said Duong.
Students who face insecurity around basic needs like food or housing are also more likely to report experiencing poor physical health, symptoms of depression and higher stress, according to the #RealCollegeSurvey.
“Humans don’t have as many opportunities to be successful and live healthy and happy if they don’t have the basic things they need like food and shelter,” said Heidi Farani, director of Student Life and Development at Whatcom.
Food pantries are one way to address student needs. However, students are often unaware of them or how to apply for support. The #RealCollegeSurvey reported that among students facing basic needs insecurity, only 34% applied for emergency aid. Fifty-two percent of them did not apply for support because they did not know how to.
Whatcom students can request emergency funds from the Whatcom Community College Foundation to pay for expenses such as food. And the Orca Food Pantry is available to all Whatcom students Monday through Friday from 8:30-5 p.m. The pantry is located on the second floor of Syre Student Center across from the Student Life front desk.
We hope to decrease stigma around food insecurity by normalizing access to food for all. Students don’t have to prove any need in order to access the orca food pantry. We hope to increase dialogue about access to basic needs for all. College, textbooks, and associated costs are expensive for all students, and there should be no shame around students needing a snack between classes, or supplemental items to make a meal. We hope that the food pantry will become a passion project for many with a warm, supportive atmosphere where we can discuss the larger societal issues and think critically about equity, compassion, and access to basic needs.
Farani said there are plans in the works to move the pantry, which first opened in 2016, to the first floor of the Syre Student Center. She is unsure when that move will happen.
Donation bins can be found in many places on campus, including in front of the Student Life Front Desk. Monetary donations to support the Orca Food Pantry can be made through the WCC Foundation website.
For more information about the Orca Food Pantry contact the Office of Student Life and Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.