Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College
Addressing a need that was revealed during a 2020 student survey, Western Nevada College is nearing completion of a Food and Hygiene Pantry for students and their families.
The food insecurity study showed that more than 40 percent of WNC students experienced food insecurity at some point during the past year. That was before the COVID health pandemic hit, which caused many students to lose their jobs. Many of WNC’s students also face financial challenges in accessing basic technology, internet and use of reliable transportation.
Generous financial support from NV Energy, Visiting Angels and University Police Services helped fund the project through WNC Foundation and envisioned last spring by Associated Students of Western Nevada President Gabrielle Clark and Student Life Coordinator Heather Rikalo.
NV Energy provided WNC’s Foundation with a $25,000 gift for the pantry to help eliminate a barrier to student success.
“Food insecurity in higher education is an overlooked obstacle for many students as they pursue their degrees,” said Katie Nannini, NV Energy Northern Nevada Community Relations Manager. “The NV Energy Foundation applauds Western Nevada College’s commitment to helping ensure that healthy foods are accessible to any student in need through the implementation of the WNC Food pantry. We know this gift will go far to support both current and future students.”
Visiting Angels made a $2,500 donation to the cause because it aligns with its mission in the community.
“Visiting Angels of Carson City is committed to serving the community of Carson City and surrounding areas,” said Visiting Angels CEO Tina Holland. “We help people remain safely, happily and healthfully in their own home. We value teamwork, service, integrity and compassion. Therefore, it makes sense to support our community college where our students can learn professional skills that will contribute to Carson City.”
The pantry, which is set to open in December 2020, will help the neediest students engage in meaningful learning while they are attending WNC so they won’t be preoccupied with worries of when they will eat next.
“We understand in order to focus on learning and growth, students must have basic needs met,” Holland said. “Most importantly, healthy meals that will provide sustenance while studying and focusing on college classes and projects. We hope to provide this basic necessity along with future jobs for WNC students wanting to serve our community before, during and after their courses.”
Earlier this fall, University Police Services raised $650 within its department to contribute to starting the pantry.
“We have seen the impact that COVID has had on our students at the main campus, with student workers having to be laid off, and on our student population, in general, so we’re trying to come up with ways that we can help,” said University Police Services Northern Command Lieutenant John Galicia. “A lot of students have come to Student Services and don’t have a way to pay for rent.”
The department used relaxed grooming standards as an enticement for officers and staff to contribute $40 per month to the pantry.
These much-appreciated donations will provide the startup costs necessary in order to transform a large office space located in student services to a food/hygiene pantry for the WNC community. The space will be equipped with shelving for dry goods, shelving for personal hygiene products, storage units, two commercial-grade refrigerators, two commercial-grade freezers and furniture for student workers.
Funding will also be used to supplement food/hygiene donations that may be in short supply from donations obtained through the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. This is especially important since demands on the Food Bank of Northern Nevada have risen greatly due to rising unemployment following measures taken to protect our community from COVID-19.
This project supports the most vulnerable of populations, allowing financially stressed students the opportunity to stay in school without having to go hungry. While the Food and Hygiene Pantry Project will serve any student that self-identifies as food insecure, the 2019 WNC student needs survey specifically identified students who have aged out of foster care, student veterans, LGBTQ+, low-income students with children and Pell Grant recipients as those at greatest risk.
The initial budget will give WNC and the WNC Foundation the runway necessary to develop relationships with other local donors such as restaurants, grocery stores and private donors that can provide supplemental supplies in future years. WNC will track food pantry use each semester with a required information card for each student.
In partnership with WNC Foundation, ASWN will create fundraising events, identify additional grant-funding opportunities and create campaigns to solicit additional private donations. WNC has already begun discussions with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada in order to receive food supplies on a weekly basis once all of the infrastructure has been put in place.
Clark said that she initially wanted to help fellow students by providing free transportation — until she saw the student survey.
“The student survey results were shockingly alarming,” Clark said. “It shapes the ideology of ASWN today and it gets students thinking that, ‘Oh, there is a need here for this school and I as a student have the power to change that or break the stigma that we all need help sometimes … break that stigma that students eat Top Ramen all the time.’ That’s what I’m hoping to change with this food pantry. Students can help one another.”
WNC is the final institution in the Nevada System of Higher Education to provide a food pantry for its students and their families.