One in four kids in Pinellas County are food insecure, or, more plainly, hungry. One in seven adults suffer the same hunger pains. Feeding America reported that “31% of households have to choose between food and education.”
Last year, SPC’s Office of Volunteer Services and SPC’s Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement began a mindful effort to connect students to community organizations that help create greater access to food pantries through service learning projects. SPC students continue to work hard to increase awareness of this important issue and create greater access to those resources – not just for their neighbors but for SPC students in need who struggle to go to school and feed their families.
Volunteer Coordinator Yalonda Tearett says it is baffling to learn about student hunger when there are community resources available. “Often, an individual is denied state or federal agency’s service due to specific requirements or grapples with requesting assistance altogether,” she said. “There must be a better way for our students to gain access to placing food on their families’ tables and allow them to focus on their college studies. The fight to eliminate hunger must continue until our households, communities, and the nation are no longer struggling to satisfy a basic need – food!”
Dr. Willie Felton, longtime SPC Faculty member, is currently a board member of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, which reaches over 60,000 people a month. The Free Clinic offers health services as well as access to food pantry and temporary assistance to transitional families. Their community kitchen serves dinner six nights a week and provides over 100 meals a night. The Free Clinic provides over 3 million pounds of food to the Pinellas County community serving as the largest emergency food distributor to 65 partner agency’s a week including county wide food pantries, community kitchen and shelters disbursed throughout SPC’s service area.
The Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement seeks to connect students and service clubs to help fight hunger in Pinellas County. Last year, SPC students, faculty and staff collected over 5,000 pounds of food to stock local food pantries. They also helped with Pack a Sack, a program that provides weekend food for over 500 food insecure kids a week. SPC students also give time to food pantries like The Kind Mouse, that serve over 300 kids a week or serve at their own church food pantries, all in concert to create greater access to food for our neighbors.
This commitment to end hunger is found across SPC. Dr. Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social Sciences & Human Services, serves as a Director of the Safehouse Food Pantry in the North Green Community of Clearwater and encourages involvement in helping those in need.
The Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement will continue to create sustainable relationships with community organizations linking students with resources and helping serve our greater community.