PDCCC STEPS team raises awareness of food insecurity

Published 5:06 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

by Wendy Harrison

Mars Inc. just may have hit the nail on the head with its Snickers ad campaign, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.” Although the ads contain humorous appeal, there’s nothing funny about the underlying truth — and that truth is, often times, people really do have to go without food.

According to research released from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab in April, titled “Still Hungry and Homeless in College,” it is estimated that 42 percent of community college students in the country experience food insecurity. Although that number is down from the 56 percent from the larger study conducted last year, this is a critical issue — one that at least 15 of the 23 Virginia’s Community Colleges are addressing, according to a recent VCCS news release.

“The USDA defines food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the ability to acquire such foods in a socially accepted manner,” explained College Success Coach Dr. Sandra Walker. Walker has worked with Paul D. Camp Community College’s Students Transitioning through Educational Programs Successfully (STEPS) for six years. The program, part of the Chancellor’s College Success Coach Initiative, launched in fall 2012.

Walker mentioned that the most extreme form of food insecurity is often accompanied with physiological sensations of hunger.

“Not only that, we know that students are making tough, life-altering choices each day,” she said, “such as having to decide between buying food or paying the electric bill, or buying life-saving medications or paying the rent.”

At PDCCC, Walker led efforts to provide a professional development opportunity for faculty, staff and administrators to learn more and discuss how food insecurities affect the success of students at PDCCC and what can be done to support them. Walker served as moderator of the Lunch and Learn titled, “Food and Hunger Insecurity on College Campuses: Why Should We Feed Students? We’re Not Required to Feed Them.” Other team members including College Success coaches Laura Clark and Karen Owens, Program specialist Jamie Dodd and Dean of Student Services Trina Jones participated along with staff, faculty and administrators.

“We are trying to help our students reach their academic, career and personal goals, but how can they be expected to be successful if they are hungry?” said Walker. “This summer’s Lunch and Learn focused on the prevalence of food and housing insecurities; working and going to college; identifying and supporting students; and recommendations for serving students’ basic needs.”

According to Walker, participants were able to share ideas, discuss best practices and make recommendations for future actions.

Addressing food insecurity and hunger is a college -wide effort at PDCCC. In 2017, President Dr. Daniel Lufkin created an 11-member PDCCC Foodbank Committee in which the STEPS members are a part.

“The committee addresses food insecurity and hunger within targeted population, in collaboration with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore,” said Walker. “We have coordinated with the Foodbank to deliver a total of 100 food bags/boxes in support of students’ needs during exam week and an on campus food drive.”

Staff and faculty donate items and money, and resources are distributed among the two PDCCC campuses and the PDCCC Center at Smithfield.

“But we need to do more,” said Walker. “We have a lot of great feedback and recommendations from the Lunch and Learn participants, who were highly engaged during the sessions. I am in the process of developing a schedule for a future professional development opportunities that have implications for teaching, learning and student success.

For more information about the STEPS program at PDCCC, contact Dr. Sandra Walker on the Hobbs Suffolk Campus: 925-6326 or swalker@pdc.edu; or Laura Clark on the Franklin Campus: 569-6780 or lclark@pdc.edu.

WENDY HARRISON is the public relations speicalist for Paul D. Camp Community College. She can be reached at wharrison@pdc.edu.