(HARLINGEN) – Lemarques Hicks is a Vocational Nursing student at Texas State Technical College and without Charlie’s Pantry available for TSTC housing students, Hicks could have gone hungry. .
This is why the TSTC Staff Senate is hosting its annual Food Drive for Charlie’s Pantry and the Student Life Pantry, centralized in the TSTC Student Center for all students to use.
“There are times that I have had no funds for food,” said Hicks. “Without the help from the pantry I would have had nothing to eat. I’m grateful that TSTC offers this type of service and support.”
The 22-year-old Houston native relocated to the Rio Grande Valley to attend TSTC. With only a grandmother close by, Hicks has no other family support in the area.
Hick’s grandmother will help her grandson as often as she is able to, but unfortunately she struggles financially as well.
“The help I have received from the college has allowed me to focus on school and has relieved some burden,” said Hicks. “They (employees) have given me the chance to stay in school and make my dream of becoming a nurse come true so that I may be able to make a better life for myself.”
Hicks has also received assistance from the TSTC Foundation’s Snyder Helping Hands fund, an emergency aid fund available to students statewide who face unexpected hardships or are at risk of dropping out of school.
Hicks said after he graduates in Spring 2019, he hopes to begin his career at a Houston hospital and take care of his aging father.
Unfortunately, Hicks is part of an alarming 42 percent of college students who describe themselves as food insecure. This number comes from a recent study “Still Hungry and Homeless in College,” by researchers at Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab.
According to the same study, one-third of these students say they have skipped meals or eaten small portions to cut costs.
TSTC Project Manager for Financial Services and Staff Senate president Sharon Foster said an increase of food-insecure students makes this a pressing issue for faculty and staff.
“We’re here to assist our students and help them stay in school,” said Foster. “We need to relieve the burden of hunger so that they can focus on achieving academically and earn a degree. Food should not be an obstacle.”
Since mid-August, the Student Life Pantry has been visited 574 times with an average of 48 visits per week. Charlie’s Pantry has an average of 15 visits per week.
“Our pantries need to be replenished. They’re running low on food,” said Foster. “Representative from both pantries have already called requesting food, and this is where our annual drive comes in.”
Foster said faculty, staff and students are always responsive to helping those in need. Non-perishable foods and monetary donations for frozen meals are already pouring in.
It takes at least $150 a month to keep the pantries stocked at minimum to ensure students like Hicks have food readily available when they need it.
“Students we’ve spoken to are always so grateful for the assistance,” said Foster. “Our goal it so make their college experience a positive one. We’re here for our students.”
There are drop-off locations set up throughout campus, and TSTC Staff Senate is also hosting food drive events to collect donations. The next events are on December 4 at the TSTC Learning Resource Center and December 11 at the Student Service Center.
As for Hicks, he is now a student worker at TSTC Housing serving as a community assistant and receiving a paycheck to help with food and other expenses.
“The help I continue getting is endless. This job is helping me more than many would think,” he said. “The pantry is now a last resort for me because I know there are many others who rely on it as well.”
For more information on how to donate to TSTC’s food pantries call 956-364-4023.