SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Allan Hancock College is helping students fight food insecurity with a weekly food-share program.
Held each Thursday, the program provides students in need with pre-bagged produce and nonperishable food.
"They are items that will help them make it through the week," said Henry Schroff, Hancock College Student Activities Specialist. "Every week they can come back and get food. This program helps our students who have food insecurities or don't have money for food, so this will definitely."
The program has been running before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of combating student food insecurity.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, there's been an increase in need for the program.
"We're seeing a definitely greater need of students coming in," said Schroff. "With the pandemic, I think the needs are higher, so we've been seeing a bigger population of students."
The food for the student-only food share is provided by the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County.
"We get lots of fruits and vegetables, which I love," said student Danielle Denton. "A lot of them are fresh from our local areas, so that's really cool. I get peanut butter all the time, so we get a lot of really good foods that are fresh and healthy."
Denton added the food-share service has is especially helpful due to the rising expense of the groceries.
"The food share program really means a lot to mean, especially being a mother as well, I have a five-year-old at home, and so being a student and a mother is really, really hard," said Denton. "I really appreciate the fact that the school offers the free food for us."
Hancock College hosts the program both of its campuses each Thursday, in Santa Maria at 1:30 p.m. and in Lompoc at 2:30 p.m.
"We're really trying to get the word out to all students," said Schroff. "We've been sending text messages and social media, but still, it's not getting to the students. We want them to know that we are here for them. We can provide a service they may need and the service will actually go pretty far."
Food is distributed at both sites by student ambassadors, who volunteer their time to operate the program.
"They are getting first-hand experience on what it means to give back to the community, so it's a life lesson," said volunteer Shirley Hinzo. "It's time very well spent."
Any Hancock College student is allowed to receive food free of charge.
The college also hosts a drive-through food share event for all community members on the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.