It’s been six months since the opening of The Community Feed at TCC at MacArthur Center in Norfolk. The innovative pantry is located on the second level across from the Apple store.
So far, more than 20,295 meals have been distributed to TCC students facing food insecurity. And last month, the pantry opened to serve all community members in need.
The project is a partnership of Tidewater Community College and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
Data released by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice estimates that 48 percent of community college students face food insecurity. And the needs have increased with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fresh food for families and individuals
The Community Feed at TCC offers a selection of assorted pantry boxes, including shelf-stable items, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, with ingredients designed to feed a family of four.
Information about ordering is available here. Food can be picked up by appointment only five days a week.
“The food always seemed to come right on time, and I was grateful to have the resource right near campus,” said student Renee Robinson. “There were meals and other produce items available every time. One week I was able to make eggplant parmesan and it was really good. I also make all kinds of salads with the fresh greens, onions, peppers, carrots and corn.”
Robinson added, “I appreciate that this service is here for us. We talk about it a lot among ourselves and are so grateful for the assistance. My family is eating good, quality food. What could be better than that?”
The overall vision of The Community Feed at TCC incorporates:
- Connecting people with one another over quality food and conversation
- Sharing resources that include recipe cards, books and wellness materials
- Providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables
- Workshops and learning sessions led by community partners on topics related to the root causes of food insecurity
Volunteers make a difference
The Community Feed is run by Foodbank staffers as well as volunteers that include faculty, staff, and students of TCC.
TCC staff member Chuck Thomas recalls a moment at the pantry that made him proud to be an employee of TCC.
“I saw a young couple with three toddlers come in to take advantage of the offerings. The father utilized the children’s play area while the mother shopped. She was able to get diapers, formula, toiletries, pre-packaged meals, and other items to feed her family,” said Thomas. “While she was there, we chatted about my experience of benefiting from food banks when I was young and the reason I was volunteering. Our conversation provided her comfort and brought tears to her eyes and she promised to pay it forward just as I was doing.”
Business Administration faculty member Kelly Gillerlain also volunteers at The Community Feed. “This is a great way to give back to our students,” she said. “It shows students we care about them and gives them additional support to succeed. I have also had the great honor to get to know some of my students outside the classroom.”
Raven Hayut, a TCC student ambassador, also serves regularly to complete volunteer hours for her scholarship. “This place has given me such a different perspective on what it means to help others and doing it in a way that you are surrounded by plenty of great people while serving.”
Initiative funded by TowneBank for five years
Thanks to a grant provided by TowneBank, the Foodbank will be able to launch additional campus-based pantries, as well as a targeted nutrition assistance program for students most at-risk of hunger. The total funds of $250,000 will be utilized to support this work over the course of five years, which will ultimately serve community members as well as thousands of students who are building upon their education to begin living wage careers.
The Campus-Based Pantry and Food Scholarship Program began in the fall of 2019 with pop-up pantries on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses. Pop-up pantries continue to be offered and have quickly became a lifeline for many students.