South Campus students engage in College food pantry service learning project

Did you know that Texas has either the second or third highest rate of food insecurity in the country at 18.5%?  Arkansas and Mississippi are tied for first place with 19.2%.  That’s the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On a typical day in the 18 southeast Texas counties served by the Houston Food Bank, 66,200 people are hungry and can’t afford to buy food.  Of that number, 5,000 are children.

One in five households in the same area faces food insecurity.  They live with the threat of being hungry, or having inconsistent access to enough nutritious food.

It’s even worse for kids: one in four children is food insecure in southeast Texas.

This semester San Jacinto College enrolled over 30,000 students; The South campus had over 12,000 students. The San Jacinto College food pantry program started in 2013.  For the Fall 2017 semester the San Jacinto College South Campus Student Engagement and Activities office accepted 64 student requests for food assistance. Since there are multiple people in a household the total amount of individuals served was 251 individuals. 

Those in higher education know that food and being fed is an essential ingredient to successful learning. When Ms. Connie Duren educated her SPCH 1315 Public Speaking students on the reality of food insufficiency and the services San Jacinto College provides for its students, several of her students volunteered to participate in her Service Learning Project:  Food Pantry Advocacy Project.

Shehzin Marediya, Victoria Mayorga, Emma Kate Dillard, and Gabrielle De Leon answered the call and agreed to educate the San Jacinto College South Campus community about the need and benefits of our campus food pantries. Throughout the semester the students spent 10 to 15 hours completing this project. They assisted with picking up donations and stocking the pantry either at the Houston Food Bank or South Campus food pantry. They completed several SPCH 1315 student learning outcomes by creating and presenting in an informative and persuasive format presentation which included a power point on the information about the San Jacinto College food pantry program and the great need it fulfills. They gave the presentation to eight GUST and EDUC classes.

Ms. Duren has been actively involved with the San Jacinto College food pantry since its inception. Her service learning work with her students has been statistically proven to increase student engagement, persistence, retention and completion in her courses. This service learning project embodies the San Jacinto College core values of Sense of Community: Caring for those we serve and ourselves and Student Success: Our ultimate measure.  As a result over 530 individuals have been fed. More importantly, Ms. Duren’s students have learned invaluable lessons as is evident in the following statement by one of her students: “Throughout this advocacy service learning project I came to know the importance of food and its value. This experience made me aware about how serious the problem of food insufficiency is and that many people are facing this problem. It also made me aware about the importance of food pantries around me and their working, and how I can contribute towards alleviating this problem.”

Ms. Duren would like to thank Mr. Daniel Byars, Coordinator of Student Engagement and Activities, Dr. Joanie Deforest, Department Chair of College Preparatory, Mr. Bob Sandhaas, Professor of Integrated Reading and Writing and Ms. Tina Willhoite, Professor of Integrated Reading and Writing and their students.