Food insecurity is a growing problem on college campuses nationwide according to Indian Hills Community College Director of Student Life Jamarco Clark. And Clark says, starting this fall, IHCC is going to do something to try and help lessen the problem on its campuses.
“The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice reports that over 45 percent of community college students are food insecure,” Clark states. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of access to enough food to lead a healthy, active life. Unemployment, food costs and the poverty rate are all factors that contribute to the problem.
Clark says Indian Hills will partner with the Food Bank of Iowa to establish food pantries on the IHCC Ottumwa and Centerville campuses.
“The Ottumwa food pantry will be located in Trustee Hall and the Centerville pantry will be in the basement of the administration building,” Clark explains. “Both will be what we call ‘choice pantries,’ meaning our students will be able to get whatever they would like from the pantries.”
Most of the food for the project will come from the Food Bank of Iowa, which is based in Des Moines but has a warehouse in Ottumwa. Clark says he also foresees food drives on campus sponsored by different student clubs and organizations.
The service will be for anyone with an active IHCC ID – students, staff or faculty.
Clark says Wapello and Appanoose Counties are two of the top four most impoverished counties in the state so “adding this tool to help out our students who could benefit from this service is really important.”
Establishing food pantries was a goal Clark had when he came to IHCC in 2018, to address a problem that is being tackled across the nation. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated last year that all of the state’s public colleges and universities have campus food pantries.
The Indian Hills sites are not necessarily modeled after another institution, Clark notes. “They will operate, though, in a similar fashion to the work I did at Mount Mercy University,” he says about the food pantry he helped establish at the Cedar Rapids school. “There is a stigma associated with food pantries so my staff and I will try and work to erase that stigma and assure students and staff it’s okay to receive food if they need it.”
Donations will be taken starting in August, according to Clark, and he hopes the pantries will be open by September, shortly after the start of the new academic year.
Anyone with questions about the Indian Hills food pantries can contact Clark at Jamarco.Clark@indianhills.edu or 641-683-5240.