Delivering more than meals

By Kristen Huyck

A California college adds to its services to keep students from going hungry.

When it comes to providing for hungry students, California’s MiraCosta College is kicking it up a notch with a new Mobile Food Pantry to complement services that already include a MiraCosta Cares Farmers Market and a long-established campus pantry that provides an emergency sack lunch or snack for any student in need of a meal.

The Mobile Food Pantry made its inaugural campus visit on July 23, serving 70 students at the Veterans Lounge and EOPS Center. Upcoming scheduled dates are September 24, October 22, November 26, January 28, February 28, March 24 and April 28.

The Mobile Food Pantry evolved through discussions with MiraCosta College Superintendent/President Sunita “Sunny” Cooke and San Diego Food Bank CEO Jim Floros, and it is delivering more than meals. Also on the menu is information about the CalFresh program and access to a nutritionist about healthy eating and community resources. The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in the county, and it works with several colleges and universities in the region.

The reviews have been positive. “I am now independent and struggle with money even though I work 30 hours a week,” said one student. “This is a safety net. Thank you!”

The already-established MiraCosta Cares Farmers Market allows for any MiraCosta College student to access free fresh produce, bread and dry goods on specified dates through December at the Oceanside Campus Library Hub Circle.

The MiraCosta Cares Farmers Market was launched in conjunction with Feeding San Diego, which works with colleges, churches and charities that collect food from various decentralized distribution points. In the past year alone, it was responsible for distributing more than 26 million meals, of which more than half consisted of fresh produce. Nearly all—97 percent—of the 27 million pounds of perfectly good food distributed by Feeding San Diego would have otherwise gone to waste. Its extensive network includes 204 Starbucks, 240 grocery stores, the San Diego Convention Center, importers with excess produce coming from Mexico, local farmers, and others.

The need is profound. While estimates vary, a recent study by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 48 percent of community college students and more than 40 percent of university students responding to the group’s survey reported being food insecure within the prior 30 days.

Kristen Huyck

is the director of public and governmental relations, and  marketing and communications at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, California.