There are over 2.1 million students enrolled in the California community college system, and almost 50% of these students are not getting the food they need. At West Hills College Coalinga, the Associated Student Government is helping combat student hunger with an on-campus food pantry.
Opened in Spring 2018, the WHCC food pantry provides essentials to students in need. “Any West Hills College Coalinga student enrolled in one class can make an appointment to visit the food pantry,” said Jay Darnell, West Hills College Coalinga Food Service Manager. “Students may request as many appointments as they need. Our service is based entirely on the student’s stated needs.”
To help support the WHCC food pantry, the WHCC Associated Student Government has held several food drives in Coalinga.
The West Hills Community College Foundation has supported campaigns that have collected monetary donations for food purchases.
“Most of the food in our pantry is purchased from the Central California Food Bank,” said Darnell. “Dry foods like beans, rice, boxed, and canned foods are readily available in the Food Pantry.”
“West Hills offering students no-cost food when they need it is a big deal,” said West Hills College Coalinga Student Cesar Flores. “Being hungry in class as a student affects you a lot because you focus on your stomach and your hungriness instead of paying attention in class.”
Helping students thrive in the classroom is one of WHCC’s main objectives. “We understand that outside factors often impact our students’ success in the classroom,” said Pedro Garcia, West Hills College Coalinga Coordinator of Student Support Programs and Engagement. “Food insecurity is something many of our students face, and our on-campus food pantry helps with this problem.”
In addition to food items, the WHCC ASG also has clothing and hygiene items available for all students in the pantry. Items available to students include cold weather and professional clothing, personal hygiene products, and deodorant.
“In addition to food, we focus on meeting our student’s essential needs,” said Garcia. “We hold community clothing swaps on-campus that have been extremely successful and make sure our clothing and hygiene pantry is stocked. When students have food in their stomachs and have the things they need to live, they are more likely to retain the information they are learning in the classroom, which helps them succeed.”