Austin Community College (ACC) hosts a spring food drive in February to support on-campus food banks for students.
"Food insecurity is an issue many of our students face," says Dr. Virginia Fraire, ACC vice president of student affairs. "When students struggle with basic needs like food, it can have a rippling negative effect on their academic performance."
According to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in January, food insecurity is on the rise among college students nationwide.
ACC conducted its own student financial survey in 2018 and found that 34 percent of students show signs of very low food security. Additionally, 61 percent of students worry about having enough money to pay for school and half have run out of money three or more times in the past year, potentially forcing the choice between paying for school expenses versus buying food or other living expenses.
In fall, the college launched food pantries stocked with canned and boxed healthy foods and toiletries at all Student Life offices.
During the first semester, nearly 2,000 students visited the food pantries, with Round Rock, Hays, and Highland campuses seeing the highest usage.
"We want to eliminate any stigma students may fear when they need to ask for help," says Kelly Brown, student life supervisor. "We don't have them fill out paperwork or an application; we just provide the food."
Beginning in October 2018, ACC partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank to provide mobile food distribution at Riverside Campus. 565 ACC students attended over the first four months and 46,000 pounds of fresh food and produce were distributed.
ACC and the food bank are in talks to expand the monthly food distribution to Northridge Campus this spring.
The Office of Special Populations also assists students facing food insecurity by providing them with a list of food pantries near their address as well as other community resources.
"Our team of student advocates provides guidance on programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), " says Angelica Cancino de Sandoval, director of special populations at the Riverside Campus. "Advocates also distributed 60 gift cards in fall 2018 to students who faced immediate food or gas needs."
Starting in the summer, the Office of Special Populations will partner with Texas Health and Human Services to train and certify each Special Populations Advocate to complete the application for SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid.
"We would be considered a partner and be able offer our students faster responses once we are all certified," says Cancino de Sandoval.
To support ACC Food Pantries, donate at any Student Life Office or visit austincc.edu/foodpantry for more information.