It is not widely known that Arlington Charities partners with Tarrant County College Southeast Campus to operate a satellite food pantry for food insecure college students. After hearing horror stories of kids not eating for 48 hours or coming into the nurse’s office with abdominal pains, TCC president Bill Coppola decided to use funds from several mini grants to combat the problem. The TCC Southeast pantry has since seen very good response with more students coming through than were originally expected. Many time crunched students who didn’t have the time to eat, simply needed a snack. Others who were struggling financially or were supporting children and family really benefited from supplemental meals. Students quickly began gushing about a “weight being lifted” and how good it felt to “have food they could count on.”
Volunteers at the Southeast Pantry stem from a variety of places. Many are students who work around their hectic class schedule to volunteer in their free time while others are faculty and staff who are all too eager to help. Despite the variety of responsibilities these volunteers already juggle, they treat their volunteer work like it is a real job. Every other week Arlington Charities delivers a truck full of food which is diligently sorted. Volunteers in the Hospitality and Management program devised a systematic storage system known as a “work circle.” Head of the panty, Sharon Wettengel, says that it is beneficial to have volunteers from different programs whose expertise helps the pantry operate even more efficiently.
There are many students with different stories who come to the pantry for help. For Sharon, the most powerful memory she has was of a student who came in looking extremely nervous and uncomfortable. She gave him a warm welcome and he returned it with a “I’m so sorry, I’ve never done this before.” Eventually he was coming in every day to get a snack and would get supplemental meals every week. He was a single dad with a baby.
Food insecurity on college campuses is a very silent problem with not a lot of attention or advocates, yet it affects a large portion of the college population. Arlington Charities is very privileged to be able to be making a noticeable difference with Tarrant County College. If you are a volunteer and would like to be featured on “Meet a Volunteer Monday,” please send us a message. Alternatively if you are inspired by Tarrant County College and would like to volunteer yourself, you can sign up at https://www.arlingtoncharities.org/volunteer.