PBSC expands food pantry to help students in need
Even though Palm Beach County is known for its vast wealth, one in six residents do not know where their next meal will come from, according to the Palm Beach County Food Bank.
Since the majority of Palm Beach State College students are residents of the county, they too may be struggling to get enough to eat.
To help ensure they have this basic need met, the College has relocated and expanded its food pantry, now called Panther’s Pantry.
Created by Counseling Center Director Jeannie Hoban in 2015, the pantry moved from the Counseling Center to room SCA 102 on the Lake Worth campus. It now offers even more basic needs items for students including canned food, boxed lunches, notebooks, snacks, personal hygiene items and more at no cost.
The pantry officially opens with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 25, which coincides with World Hunger Action Month. Thereafter, its normal operating hours will be Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to the main pantry, all other PBSC campuses will have pantry cabinets available later in the fall term. Students may take up to 10 pounds of items per week. They only need to show their College ID.
These pantries would not have been possible without the generous gift from Bank of America, which donated $45,000 toward the expansion of the pantry for all part-time and full-time students who are experiencing food insecurities regardless of their families’ income. The funds were also used toward Panther’s Closet, a student-run thrift store that opened in 2017 on the Lake Worth campus.
“Partnering with Palm Beach State College to support the Panther’s Closet & Pantry with the lead gift has been very exciting,” said Stephanie Glavin, local market manager for Bank of America. “The program is unique in the sense that it provides students with access to basic needs and a hands-on opportunity to use the service-learning based coursework to learn how to run a social enterprise. The project was important for us to support, as we have a shared mission of advancing economic mobility and building thriving communities.”
The Lake Worth campus pantry will be managed by Sheila Nichols, counseling center representative. The pantry cabinets will be managed by a student activities club on the various campuses.
When the pantries need to be restocked, some of the food will come from donations from organizations that Palm Beach State is a member of including, the Palm Beach County Food Bank, Feeding South Florida and the College and University Food Bank Alliance. Donations are also welcome from the college community. Those who wish to donate can visit the pantry for a list of items needed.
Panther’s Pantry is not the only recent initiative launched at the College to help students in need. The College also opened the Panther Power Center to help strengthen retention and graduation rates for low-income students who are first time college students at the Lake Worth and Belle Glade campuses. The center, which will support two cohorts of 1,000 students, was established with a two-year, $250,000 grant from the Farris Foundation.
Through the Panther Power Center, located in room PG 116 on the Lake Worth campus, students and members of their household will be screened for unmet needs, referred to community agencies, assisted with completing State of Florida administered benefit applications such as SNAP and Medicaid, invited to on-campus workshops, and receive help completing a personal financial plan to pay for their education through to graduation and help stabilize their financial situation. The center complements the services of Panther’s Pantry and Panther’s Closet.
“More and more students are trying to balance going to school, working and paying for housing, utilities and child care,” said Dr. Peter Barbatis, vice president of student services and enrollment management and interim provost of the Lake Worth campus. “When you add food and financial insecurities on top of that, it can lead to students skipping meals, dropping classes or not buying textbooks. At PBSC, we realize the challenges students are facing and want to help relieve this stress by providing them with these resources so they can focus on their classes, grades and building tight networks with friends.”
For more information on Panther’s Pantry, call Nichols at 561-868-3980. For more information on the Panther Power Center, call Program Grant Manager Michelle Wilks at 561-868-4003.