Campus & Community

Palm Beach State pitches in to provide food for those in need

Dr. Maria Arbona, professor of psychology, rallied her students and fellow professors to collect food for families in need.

Palm Beach State College employees and students opened their pantries and their wallets to provide food for the homeless, as well as individuals and families in need.

A food drive has been underway over the last five weeks on the Lake Worth campus for donation to CROS Ministries, which operates six food pantries in Palm Beach County and one in Martin County. At least 150 boxes of food have been collected for the drive that ends today.

Individual collections had been organized for years by Dr. Maria Arbona, professor of psychology on the Lake Worth campus, Shona Castillo, volunteer program specialist, and Professor Trish Froehlich, who teaches nutrition. However, this year, they combined their efforts with Brian Kelley, Lake Worth campus library director, as part of the College’s Common Reader Program.

For the second year in a row, the common reader was author Liz Murray’s New York Times best-selling memoir “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard.” In the book, Murray, who was homeless at age 15 and fending for her life, describes how she routinely ate from dumpsters and sought refuge at all-night subway stations to survive.

A 2009 Harvard graduate, Murray spoke at Palm Beach State last year. Her story sparked Kelley and others to work to bring more attention to the issue of homelessness, including among Palm Beach State’s own student population. The College-Wide Counseling Center opened its own food pantry, and now gives food and toiletries to students in need. The College hosted a homelessness panel discussion at each campus this week with Ezra Krieg, program director for the Senator Philip D. Lewis Center in Palm Beach County, and Pamela Goodman, president of the Board for the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County. According to the Homeless Coalition, 1,421 individuals and families are homeless on any given day in Palm Beach County.

Food Pantry 2
PBSC students Jessica Lopez and Yaritza Bello help transport food collected during the food drive.

Castillo said students and employees were more generous in their giving. “I think it really hit home this year,” she said. “Everyone was even more gracious because they realized what was happening here on our very own campus. The book shed light into this issue, and students who attended last year’s panel with the author started voicing their own experiences. It became a safe place with others also sharing their experiences.”

Arbona said she began collecting food about eight years ago because, as a clinical psychologist of 41 years engaged in the community, she understands the plight of individuals. She provided extra points for her students who supplied nonperishable foods. Then she tapped other professors in the Social Science building to get involved.

“I want my students to be aware that we live in a community where some people are hungry,’’ she said. “People need to be aware that we’re doing this to help hungry people in Florida.”

Brian Rowe, director of food pantries for CROS Ministries, said the organization is able to do its work because of partnerships like that with PBSC.

“These types of partnerships are crucial to what we do and how we do it. We do get some funds from donors and through our budget, but without these donations we wouldn’t be able to feed the families that we feed,” he said. “Each year we get more and more families coming through our pantries. Overall, we’re seeing an increase in families expressing need.”

In addition to the Lake Worth campus food drive, the Palm Beach Gardens campus collected food and personal hygiene items at its homelessness panel discussion that drew 250 students. Angela Allen, student activities manager, said individuals attending the panel were asked to bring nonperishable food or toiletries. Those items will be provided to students on campus who are in need. The Palm Beach State College chapter of the National Council on Black American Affairs also is collecting money to provide gift cards for students in need for the holidays.

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