More than half of students attending California Community Colleges have trouble affording balanced meals or worry about running out of food, according to the results of a survey recently released by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice.

More than half of students attending California Community Colleges have trouble affording balanced meals or worry about running out of food, according to the results of a survey recently released by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. College of the Siskiyous is working to combat that issue by providing an on-campus food pantry through Great Northern Services, and offering free snacks and lunches through the Hunger Free Campus Initiative.

COS Student Equity Specialist Regina Weston explained, “We started our food pantry in the fall of 2017 thanks to an amazing partnership with Great Northern Services. Over time it has grown, and we now receive regular donations from our campus service clubs as well to keep the pantry fully stocked with a variety of foods. All that is required for students to access the food pantry is to fill out the self-certification form required by Great Northern. Students can access the pantry anytime Monday-Friday from 8-4:30 pm and the pantry is located in our Basecamp office, which is inside of the John Mantle Student Center.

According to survey responses, a combined 52 percent of students said they either couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals or worried whether their food would run out before having money to buy more. Forty-one percent of respondents reported that they skipped meals or ate smaller portions for financial reasons, and 12 percent said they had not eaten for an entire day during the previous month because they did not have enough money.

Thanks to an allocation COS receives from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office for the Hunger Free Campus initiative, COS provides baskets at various locations on campus that are filled daily with convenient snacks like granola bars and fruit snacks. “We also are able to provide sack lunches and breakfast items for students in need. This is a service provided to all students thanks to our Hunger Free Campus allocation,” Weston said.

This year, the college also launched a program called Basecamp, is essentially a one-stop shop for students to access services. “The idea behind Basecamp is that each student may have a different path to their educational goal, and require different services in order to reach their goal. Basecamp provides the ‘tools’ that they need to fill their packs for their educational journey,” Weston detailed.

Some of those services include one-on-one assistance with financial aid, CalFresh application assistance, personal hygiene kits, school supplies, and transportation and book vouchers for eligible students.

COS’ vision moving forward is to move Basecamp to a larger location so that the food pantry can be expanded to provide more choices to students. Weston reported, “As word has grown about the food pantry we have seen our numbers consistently increase and on average we are serving 15-20 students weekly. I expect those numbers to continue to grow, especially once we expand the pantry.”