As families are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment numbers are hitting Great Depression levels while countless others have seen hours reduced. This means the same bills that were being covered with ease, or barely at all, are now tougher to bear. That is why San Jacinto College has kept its food markets open and partnered with the Houston Food Bank to ensure that students and employees have one less worry.
In late March, the College's food markets at the Central, North, and South Campuses began issuing orders via curbside pick-up by appointment to allow students to continue receiving up to 30 pounds of food and supplies per week while also keeping food market staff safe. On April 14, the College announced that the food markets would be open to employees as well. Providing peace of mind as well as essential supplies remains the overall goal.
"During this period of uncertainty, nearly every aspect of life seems to be in a constant state of flux for many of our students," said Daniel Byars, South Campus student engagement and activities coordinator. "The food markets, along with our partnership with the Houston Food Bank, allow us to help alleviate some of those worries for our students so that they can stay focused on their goals here at San Jacinto College and persist to graduation."
With the other resources available to help those facing tougher times, it makes the situation all the more unusual that campus food market usage has dropped since the College announced it would be transitioning to altered operations due to COVID-19. Reasons could range from not knowing the markets are still available to the stigma associated with visiting food pantries, but the College wants students and employees to know it's OK to receive assistance, especially now.
"We know the needs of our students are more than the current usage numbers are reflecting," said Amanda Rose, Central Campus student engagement and activities coordinator. "The process to use the food market is designed to minimize the negative stigma that is often associated with having a food insecurity. The Houston Food Bank has created the Food for Change program to support students in their academic success."
Safety remains the greatest concern for those using these community resources. San Jacinto College and the Houston Food Bank want everyone to know they are doing everything they can to ensure safe distribution practices are always adhered to.
"The health and safety of our partners, staff, and community remains our No. 1 priority," said Katherine Tong of the Houston Food Bank. "The Food Bank and our partners will continue to adhere to CDC guidelines, which have been consistent since the beginning. We must help flatten the curve, while still serving our community."
Learn more about food resources at the San Jac Marketplace.