Employee Name: David Shaffer
Employee Job Title: Learning & Development Manager, Retail
Tomorrows Project Title: Hungry to Learn
Project Tagline: 1-in-5 college students is food insecure. With all that these students have on their plates, shouldn’t food be one them?
What is your Tomorrows Project? (tell us what your Tomorrows Project details):
Hungry To Learn supports at-risk students at Los Medanos College (LMC) by providing access to healthy food on campus and at home via an on campus food pantry. While facing food insecurity, many students are forced to choose between staying in school and working to put food on the table for their families. In cases like these, students seek college to pull them out of poverty, but too often their poverty pulls them out of college. We can help students stay in school and open doors for their future.
What Inspired you to create your Tomorrow?
Earlier this year over a dinner conversation, my brother-in-law, Scott shared heartbreaking stories of students having to choose between having food to eat or going to school. In one instance, a student of Scotts’ apologized to him in advanced for that days during the semester that food would take precedence over coming to class. Another student thanked Scott for the granola bar he gave her, stating that it will be the only meal she’d get that day. By opening a food pantry at LMC, we felt we could remove one burden from students’ path to a college education.
Tell us about Los Medanos College and the students that attend.
LMC is located in Pittsburg, CA, 30 miles east of Oakland. The location is significant, given that as Oakland gentrifies, more low-income families are forced to move further into the east bay to cities such as Pittsburg and Bay Point.
One student, Tito, experienced similar challenges after returning home from Iraq. Tito enrolled in college hoping to fulfill a promise that he would provide for his own children in ways his parents couldn’t. But, just weeks into his first semester, an issue with his GI Bill put Tito in $4,000 worth of debt. To fulfill this debt, the state garnished Tito’s wages, which suddenly left him unable to provide food for his family of three. After weeks of surviving on ramen and $.99 packages of hot dogs, Tito dropped out of college to work full-time at a grocery store.
After years of saving and encouragement from his family, Tito finally returned to LMC. As Scott shared Tito’s story with me, I was struck at the hard work and dedication Tito had committed to his education. In turn, I was convinced that I had to take some action to help students like Tito. Though it pales in comparison to Tito’s sacrifices, I knew creating Hungry To Learn was one way I could help.
Tito’s story isn’t unusual at LMC. The Tomorrows Project gave us the opportunity to remove the barrier between LMC’s students and their future.
Tell us what’s to come on 2017.
The LMC Food Pantry will officially be opening with the start of the spring semester. The pantry will be employing 4-5 student ambassadors, who are funded through the Federal Work Study program. In the initial pilot, students will be able to get non-perishable essentials, including pastas, beans, peanut butter, canned sauces, etc., from the pantry. There will not be any restrictions on the amount of food students can receive. The goal is to provide food for students like Tito who need additional support for their families. After the spring semester, we’ll assess the pantry to ensure that we’re providing enough food for students and to gauge how to best provide perishable foods.