The board of trustees delegation recently opened a dialogue to expanding the subsidized lunch program to community colleges with federal legislators in Washington, D.C. this February.
This year, the Superintendent-President Dr. Erika Endrijonas and trustees Linda Wah and Jim Osterling addressed a wide range of economic issues faced by students and advocated for increased funding for non-tuition expenses for community college students.
While meeting with California Representative Adam Schiff, trustee Osterling introduced an idea to expand the free and reduced lunch program available currently to K-12 students. As it stands, funding is currently available for 30 million daily lunches for K-12 students. Osterling estimates that a budget increase of 10% would be sufficient to expand the program to community college students, but in order to do so, legislation would need to be introduced and passed allowing the program to expand. Osterling also introduced the idea to Rep. Judy Chu and the education aides for Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris, who welcomed the idea with what he described as similar levels of interest. But, Osterling said it is not a done deal by any means.
“The beauty of the idea lies in its simplicity,” Osterling said. “The program would be implemented by the food service at each community college which would be reimbursed a per meal stipend for each meal served.”
There would be no additional paperwork needed for student participation because community college students already fill out financial aid applications which would be used to determine eligibility for the program.
The program would help address food insecurity which is a rising issue here at PCC.
“Students should be worried about their tests and their grades,” said Lisa Nelson, Outreach Coordinator of the Lancer Pantry in an editorial previously featured on the Courier. “To add on to that ‘where am I going to eat next?’ That’s too much stress.”
Currently at PCC, students do have access to a free food pantry, where they can receive free snacks and groceries. The Lancer Pantry serves up to 200 students per day and each week provides around 3,000 pounds of food to students on campus. However, the Lancer Pantry is a volunteer effort that relies on the PCC Foundation and private donations to stay open.
“They have made an incredible effort to bridge the food insecurity gap, but it is a stopgap measure that relies on the ups and downs of food availability at our local food banks and the generosity of private donors,” said Osterling. “Expansion of the existing federal program to community colleges would provide a stable funding source at a very reasonable cost per meal.”
Students who are experiencing food insecurities are encouraged to visit the Lancer Pantry, which is located in the CC Building. They offer a range of healthy snacks, groceries to take home as well as hygiene supplies and referrals to off-campus resources.
Students requesting services will need to have a valid PCC student ID, which can be obtained from the LancerCard Station in the Wi-Fi Lounge Lobby, located on the first floor of the CC building on PCC’s main campus.