Four ways community college pantries can serve food-insecure students during the COVID-19 crisis

Expert Insight

Four ways community college pantries can serve food-insecure students during the COVID-19 crisis

As community colleges respond to the COVID-19 crisis, campus leaders have been working around the clock to ensure that the community college mission is being served, even in a time of great uncertainty.  Food insecure students are particularly vulnerable right now as institutions reduce dining hours and options, cancel group events, and in some cases close campus buildings.  How can you best keep your campus informed about services and resources as the situation continues to evolve at your institution?

1. Prominently feature campus pantry information on your website

To communicate up-to-date information about the changing policies and procedures on campus, many colleges have created resource centers on their website, to direct students and staff to relevant information. In addition to academic updates, ensure that these pages also prominently feature information about the campus food pantry—including location, hours, and contact information—that is kept up to date and doesn’t require multiple click-throughs. Create visually striking banners at the top of the college homepage that quickly directs students to these resources.

Tacoma Community College prominently features campus pantry information only one click from the homepage.

2. Send periodic reminders about basic needs resources to students, faculty, and staff

Individuals’ situations are changing rapidly as COVID-19 spreads.  Someone who didn’t pay attention to information about campus food pantry resources 10 days ago might find themselves needing to access them now.  Therefore, it is important to ensure that stakeholders across campus have updated information about what is available, how to access it, and who to contact for additional questions.  Include this information on multiple channels (e.g., email, website, social media) to ensure the broadest reach.

3. Consider temporarily opening the pantry to staff and faculty as well as students

Community colleges have taken a range of approaches to their food pantries, some limiting it only to students in need while others have opened it up to the entire campus community.  If your pantry is limited to solely students, consider whether it might be feasible to temporarily extend the services to faculty and staff.  In particular, hourly staff and adjuncts are two populations that community college leaders have highlighted as particularly at-risk right now.   

4. Partner with your marketing team and social media ambassadors to run a fundraising appeal

Many faculty and community members are concerned about the hardships students are facing in light of COVID-19 and are proactively asking for opportunities to help. Consider reaching out to your marketing team to see whether the campus food pantry could be prominently featured in any upcoming social media campaigns. Leverage high-visibility Twitter or Instagram accounts like the president’s office or the athletic department to spread the word throughout the community.

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