By Jim DeLa
When New College opened its food pantry a year ago, organizers knew there was a need; a Student Association survey had discovered there were periods during which students were experiencing financial hardships, money was tight and cupboards were empty.
Since the pantry opened on the first floor of Searing Residence Hall, students have used it more than 500 times, according to Jada McNeill, the VISTA volunteer coordinator at New College. Pantry volunteers celebrated the one-year anniversary Feb. 5 outside of Searing with music, food samplings and a cooking demonstration by Metz Culinary Management.
The food pantry, available to the New College community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, usually gets food from Food Bank of Manatee, McNeill said. “We were able to have more than $800 worth of food donated for Fall semester,” she added, citing the many donations from students, faculty, staff, and community partners the pantry received throughout the year.
“I believe now that it’s been a year since the pantry started, more students are realizing this resource and are using it,” she said.
Cassidy Heaton, a fourth-year student who works with McNeill to manage the pantry, says it’s an incredible resource. “More students struggle with food insecurity than you’d think,” she said. “When students run out of [food service] points, this can be a life saver.”
The pantry’s shelves are stocked with nonperishable staples and occasional donations of fresh vegetables. McNeill says the most popular items are pastas and soup. “Cans of vegetables tend to stay on the shelf longer,” she added.
The pantry keeps track of what people take and when they access the pantry, but all transactions are anonymous. “The 500-plus users could be students, faculty or staff,” McNeill said.
For more information about the New College Food Pantry, to make donations or to volunteer, contact VISTA Volunteer Coordinator Jada McNeill at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Jim DeLa is digital communications coordinator at New College of Florida.