Research has shown that more than 30 percent of college students across the United States suffer from food insecurity.
That percentage is even higher on College of Coastal Georgia’s campus, according to recent surveys completed by the Student Government Association. Nearly 66 percent of students who responded to a CCGA survey reported previously experiencing or currently experiencing food insecurity.
So the college’s SGA took action and on Wednesday officially opened its new food and clothing pantry called “The Deck.”
The pantry is located in the Student Activity Center on campus.
“It’s time for our students to feel the love that we have for each other,” said Kelsey Rios, SGA president at Coastal Georgia, during a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday. Rios helped lead the months-long effort to open the pantry.
CCGA is among hundreds of colleges across the country that have started similar programs to meet student needs, she said.
These pantries aim to address a widespread but often undiscussed needs facing many students. And at CCGA, many students are “non-traditional students,” meaning they’re often older and already employed, earning their degrees while working and possibly raising a family.
“There was a recent survey where they surveyed 66 colleges and institutions, and 36 percent of students said that they have or continue to experience food insecurity and also lack a permanent place to live,” said Michael Butcher, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students at the college.
A stigma also exists, though, that prevents students from speaking up about their struggles, Butcher said.
“SGA has said that we don’t want that to be an issue anymore,” he said.
Rios attended a conference last year with other SGA presidents, and their conservations sparked her interest in bringing a food pantry to CCGA. She received the go-ahead from SGA advisors last spring and began surveying students on campus about their needs.
Nearly 66 percent of students reported a need, she said.
“And there were multiple students that said, ‘Thank you, I needed this. I didn’t know how to ask for help,’” Rios said.
The students collected the food through food drives at the Winn-Dixie grocery store on St. Simons. They’re planning to keep the pantry stocked through ongoing food and clothing drives. They also welcome community donations.
Those wishing to donate to the pantry can email email@example.com.