FOOD INSECURITY ON CAMPUS: Delaware Tech, Food Bank partner to deliver food for students, staff since April 2020
October 13, 2021
On a recent October morning, orange cones set in place by the college’s public safety officers cordoned off a parking lot at Delaware Technical Community College’s Georgetown campus to provide adequate space for an important project: a mobile pantry. Students and staff had access to a scheduled food distribution through a partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware.
The Food Bank’s truck was stocked with boxes packed and ready to be loaded into vehicles by a team of college volunteers, including Dr. Bobbi Barends, vice president and campus director. More than 80 students and staff pre-registered for this drive-through mobile pantry.
DTCC Student Affairs Program Assistant Kelli Dunt, one of those volunteers, explained that a college-wide communication plan is in place to reach those in need. In addition to electronic posts on the college’s web page and emails to DTCC staff and students, there’s additional efforts to connect to the college’s ESL students who may need extra encouragement to take advantage of this free service.
Carey McDaniel, Language Arts department chair and ESL program director, paused from her duties at the food distribution – unpacking blueberries – to explain the depth of the ESL program at the Owens Campus: there are 19 classes – at three academic levels – serving English language learners. Those learners represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. “It’s great to see students enjoying the resources DTCC has to offer because we’re excited to offer these resources for our students,” she said.
Delaware Tech has been offering mobile food pantries at all four campuses almost since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in April 2020, said DTCC Community Relations Coordinator Bryan Mack.
More recently, food distribution in New Castle County has been centered at the Stanton campus due to staging logistics at the college’s Wilmington campus.
In addition, each campus offers an on-site food pantry where students or staff can pick up emergency food and personal products through an appointment system that assures privacy.
Mack explained that for DTCC, student needs have been a priority. “We were also helping students with technology, finding laptops, and Wi-Fi hotspots too. This (the mobile pantries) has been an eye-opener. We served just over 100 households during our first event at the Wilmington campus in April 2020. Since then, we have hosted 27 events on all four of our campuses and served nearly 6,000 households.”
Delaware Tech students are not the only students in need of food. Nationally, campus food insecurity was a concern even pre-pandemic. Surveys indicated that a significant percentage of community college students nationwide indicated experiencing food insecurity in the past year, explained Dr. Kerri Harmon, dean of student affairs at DTCC’s Dover campus.
“The mobile food pantry is a convenient way for students to get the food they need. I’m proud of our college. We do it well for our students; it’s part of our culture. We strive to always address the needs of our students, whatever they may be.”