HOUSTON – Lone Star College-University Park hosted the Holiday Harvest Thursday, Dec. 6, which brought the Houston Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry to the college. Students, employees and community members were invited to stock up on fresh foods and vegetables. In just three hours, more than 300 people representing 825 total family members received food for their households.
The Holiday Harvest was the result of a collaboration between LSC-University Park’s Center for Civic Engagement, Communities In Schools and the Houston Food Bank. The Mobile Food Pantry, a farmers market on wheels, delivers fresh fruit and produce to neighborhoods in Houston and surrounding areas. Students and community members were able to select from items like oranges, bananas, green beans, pinto beans, pears and milk.
“As the community’s college, we serve a wide range of students and we know that community college students are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, with many balancing multiple responsibilities beyond the classroom, including work and family,” said Dr. Shah Ardalan, LSC-University Park president. “Ensuring we provide access to resources that sustain healthy lives allows us to help our students reach success, which is our ultimate goal as a college.”
The USDA considers individuals without regular access to quality, nutritious foods, or not having regular meals, as being food insecure. A large percentage of community college students support their families, but work reduced hours to accommodate classes. Food stamps, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and services like those offered by the Houston Food Bank help bridge the gap.
Cassandra Khatri, a political science professor and campus coordinator for civic engagement at LSC-University Park, is working with students, faculty and staff to bring awareness to the problem and to work toward practical, empathetic solutions.
“We know that food insecurity is a national issue, so we started thinking about paths that could bring resources to our college,” said Khatri. “In working with Communities In Schools, we were able to better serve our community with the Holiday Harvest.”
LSC-University Park student Gabby Long witnessed college employees and Houston Food Bank representatives assisting dozens at the Holiday Harvest.
“I’ve actually volunteered at the Houston Food Bank before, but I didn’t know about the Mobile Food Pantry,” said Long. “I think it is great for people who need food to be able to get fresh food, not just canned items.”
The Mobile Food Pantry first visited LSC-University Park in May and organizers are planning to continue the partnership. As part of its commitment to student well-being beyond the classroom, LSC-University Parks offers assistance on campus through the student development office as well. The college offers disability services, veteran services, free career counseling and tutoring, academic advising and financial aid assistance.
“I want our students to know that we as a community see them and they can feel comfortable asking for help,” said Khatri. “We understand that food insecurity is a real issue and we are working to provide them avenues for help. We’re here for our community even beyond the classroom.”
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