PUEBLO –The Colorado Department of Higher Education named Pueblo Community College a Hunger Free Campus in December.
The designation applies to all PCC campuses in Pueblo, Cañon City and Mancos and recognizes the school’s efforts to combat food insecurity among its students. Food insecurity – limited or uncertain access to food – affects more than 45 percent of college students in the United States, according to a 2018 Hope Center #RealCollege survey.
“This is a reflection of PCC’s commitment to help our community thrive,” said Toni Skilling, PCC’s director of student life and leadership. “It means that our students will have more access to resources and will have assistance, if needed, to access those resources.”
Members of PCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society made the Hunger Free Campus designation one of their campus-wide initiatives for 2021. When Mark Sandoval, current president of PCC’s Associated Student Government, learned that many community college students who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are not receiving them, the designation also became a goal for ASG.
“This initiative was student driven. The collaboration and teamwork between PTK and ASG is really what inspired us to submit the application. There’s no better way to know what the students of PCC need than by getting feedback directly from them,” Skilling said.
To receive the CDHE designation, schools must implement six focused initiatives – two each in the focus areas of awareness, access and integration – and four core programs:
- Run a campus food pantry
- Provide SNAP enrollment help
- Hold one awareness event each year
- Collect data and report on student food insecurity
Numerous factors can affect students’ access to meals. Food insecurity can lead to complications with schoolwork, mental health and other aspects of life. Providing services to alleviate this issue has become even more crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want them to learn what resources they have on campus and in the community to alleviate the stress of where their next meal might come from, said Skilling. “That will help them engage more in school.”
PCC will relocate its Pueblo campus pantry to a larger space this year to create a better environment for students, Skilling said.
“We want to normalize the experience so they feel like they are grocery shopping and aren’t embarrassed to get supplies.”
Students also can access food and personal hygiene items at other campus locations outside pantry hours. Well-publicized mobile food pantry events and other activities take place on campus each semester to reach a broader number of students. Students receive educational materials about SNAP benefits and community resources at campus events and through multiple college communication channels.
Students can visit a Panther Student Pantry on each of the main campuses and select up to six food items and one personal hygiene item per week. For more information, email Toni.Skilling@pueblocc.edu or call 719-549-3019.
Pantry locations and hours:
Pueblo – 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Learning Center (AB-042)
Fremont – 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, Go!Zone
Mancos – 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday
Founded in 1933, Pueblo Community College is a premier teaching institution focused on providing academic and service excellence, without discrimination, to help its students acquire the 21st-century skills needed to better their lives. An educational and technological leader, PCC fosters economic development and utilizes strong partnerships in the communities it serves through its Pueblo, Fremont and Southwest campuses.