MOSES LAKE — During the last two years, the Viking Food Pantry has become a major resource on the Big Bend Community College campus, providing students in need with access to nutritious food, non-perishables and personal care products. To date, nearly 25,000 pounds of food and more than 1,800 personal items have been distributed.
Food insecurity, or being without reliable access to affordable and nutritious food, is one of many boundaries that can keep college students from getting an education. And while hunger can often be a quiet problem, it’s still very present in the Big Bend campus community.
“Seeing how much food and other items we distribute, and how quickly, really demonstrates that there is a huge need among our students,” said BBCC Career Services Coordinator Jody Bortz.
Each quarter the food pantry distributes between 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of food to students. This includes fresh produce, meat, dairy, eggs and various non-perishables such as grab and go microwave meals, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and top ramen.
Big Bend student Erin Hawkins said running out of food is a real and recurring fear for some students, including herself. While she receives financial aid to cover tuition and books, there are other necessities to worry about, such as housing and other living expenses.
“I use the food pantry for times where there isn’t money left over to buy groceries,” said Hawkins. “Having the food pantry really helps.”
Students often rely heavily on the non-food items the pantry distributes as well, such as hygiene and cleaning products and warm weather gear in the winter months.
“The non-food items like toilet paper, soap, diapers, have been a lifesaver. These are items I cannot get with my food stamps,” said recent BBCC graduate Chauntelle Kruger.
Last winter quarter the food pantry experienced its busiest couple of months, distributing a total of 4,577 pounds of food. Bortz said they are working to drum up donations in anticipation of a similar situation this year.
The food pantry receives a portion of their food through its partnership with the Moses Lake Food Bank. The rest is from generous donations from the Big Bend campus community.
Earlier in the summer the food pantry received 20 cases of dried food product from Basin American Foods. They also recently received 1500 pounds of potatoes from the Horning Brothers Farms, 125 pounds of frozen meat from BBCC staff members Dawnne Ernette and Zach Olson and a $250 donation from BBCC faculty.
“Our students and staff rely on these resources,” said Bortz.
Some of the most requested needs at the food pantry right now are diapers, water, fresh produce, grab and go meals, breakfast foods, hygiene and cleaning items, and warm weather gear such as coats, blankets and gloves, said Bortz.
The Viking Food Pantry is located in the 1500 building, in room 1501. Students, faculty and staff can access the food pantry by appointment, or on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Starting this quarter, the food pantry is also open Thursday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m.