By Karina Dunn
Testing assistant Allison Farris and her colleagues at the Testing Center believe the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday provides an optimal opportunity to discuss food security and encourage student involvement.
The Testing Center will collect food donations Nov. 23-25 from students and faculty as part of their initiative to “Take the Lead” during Thanksgiving week. Donations should include snacks that are easy to “grab and go.”
“We saw that Thanksgiving was our week, and we felt passionate about bringing awareness to food insecurity,” Farris said.
The Testing Center has partnered with Upward Bound Assistant Director Sandy Hampton to spread awareness for hunger among students.
Donations will be given to Hamp- ton for storage and distribution in room N-230.
During finals week, and perhaps the weeks leading up depending on the amount of supplies received, students will have a place to go if they need a snack to curb their hunger and have nothing to eat.
“This is not exactly a canned food drive,” Hampton said. “We need things that students who are in need can grab quickly to eat, or things they can heat up quickly.”
Nonperishables and foods that are easy to store, such as cereal bars and ramen noodles, are most needed.
The partnership was created after Hampton noticed some of her own students were struggling to pay for food.
She and other faculty members have since taken steps to help.
“Our students would come ask- ing for help … and saying they’re hungry,” Hampton said. “They would bring their friends. … We’d ask them, ‘How are you doing? Do you have lunch? Do you have an opportunity to have lunch?’ From there, it spread through word-of-mouth.”
Hampton explained that by creating a space where students feel
comfortable and connected to their professors and advisers, she and everyone at the Testing Center hopes to give students more of the support they need.
Many college students not only struggle to pay for tuition and books, but also their meals. During their Take the Lead week, the Testing Center wants to help spread awareness about hunger and food security at Eastfield.
Food insecurity, not having access to sufficient and affordable food, affects around 9,620,000 Texan households according to 2012-2014 research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Feeding America, a national non-profit that works to combat hunger, found that 472,170 people in Dallas County are food insecure based on 2013 reports.
“Students who are food insecure will not return to complete the year or a certificate or degree,” Farris said.
Farris found that 49.3 percent of Feeding America’s college clients must choose between paying for tuition and supporting their families or paying for their next meal.
“We have students come out and say, ‘Can I return later? I’m just so hungry,’ ” she said. “They say they cannot afford the vending machines.
“We’ve had staff members share their lunches with these students so that nutrition can flow through their bodies and they can complete their test.”
Studies show that if students take tests back-to-back, they are less likely to do well the second time, Farris said. Some students may hesitate to ask for the help they need.
Many college students have responsibilities they expect to be able to tackle themselves. As parents, employees, student leaders or volunteers, many try to find solutions to their own problems.
“We want to inspire people to let this kind of issue stay on their heart,” Farris said. “Whenever they have an extra two or three dollars to pick up one extra item at the store and donate … just pick up one extra item and bring it in.”