GCC Mobilizes to Meet Growing Need for Food

Monday, January 13, 2020

While it is not unusual for a typical college student to be on a tight budget, most people consider this lifestyle temporary and not involving significant sacrifice.  

The reality for many students is quite different.   In fact, there are a number of students in the GCC community dealing with food insecurity that seriously impacts them on a personal level and can hurt their chances of success in college.  

Food insecurity, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.  To qualify as food insecure, a person lacks the financial resources to be able to provide food at the required household level.  According to Feeding America, an organization that provides food to people in need through a nationwide network of food banks, approximately one in nine Americans were food insecure in 2018; this figure translates to over 37 million Americans.  

While working in the Center for Students and Families four years ago, Licella Arboleda, coordinator and counselor at the GCC Wellness Center, noticed that food insecurity was prevalent on the GCC campus and began contacting local food pantries to address the problem.  She located an ideal partner in The Storehouse Project Mobile Food Pantry in Milford, with services available to all and whose mission and purpose aligned with that of GCC and the Center for Students and Families.  The Storehouse Project provides high-quality, nutritional foods free of charge, enabling families to use money saved to take care of other financial needs.  

A mobile food pantry visits the GCC campus from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month.  The truck is stationed in a driveway near the Early Learning Center playground on George Street between the North and South buildings.  Available to all students and members of the GCC community, recipients need only show a GCC identification card and complete a foodbank declaration form when they arrive.  Since the relationship with The Storehouse Project was established in 2015, the number of students served has grown exponentially.    

Thirty-seven students were served at the November food pantry, where turkeys were distributed along with all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast.  GCC Counselor Dana Albert, MS, NCC, said that data showed that this would feed a total of 86 family members.  Throughout the fall semester, the pantry served over 100 students.  The need was particularly apparent in September. 

“On our September date, we ran out of food by 11:30 a.m. after serving 33 students, expressing a huge need for food here on our campus.  We typically have students who begin lining up at 10:30 a.m. in anticipation of the food pantry arriving and see a consistent flow of students throughout our time there,” Albert said. 

For those who can’t make it to mobile food pantry on campus, the Wellness Center provides interested students with lists of other food pantries in New Haven and the dates they operate.  Arboleda said the goal of the initiative is to proactively support students by recognizing the challenges they face as they work toward their educational goals and build a solid foundation for future success.  

“Working with GCC students is an honor. Our students are not only diverse in culture, race, religion and age, they are also diverse in their needs. We have a civic and social responsibility to our students and the Wellness Center is here to offer support to those facing challenges in life, especially as they relate to their most basic needs,” Arboleda said.