PABLO - A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition found that over a 10-year period, Tribal communities averaged a food insecurity rate of 25%.
The COVID-19 pandemic and inflation aren't helping matters, but as MTN News recently learned, one college campus has joined forces to feed bodies and minds.
We recently stopped by for Food Box Friday on the Salish Kootenai College (SKC) campus and by the end of the day, close to 300 people would have fresh food, pantry staples -- and even a ready to make meal.
SKC does this twice a month for its students, faculty, and staff to help overcome food insecurity in the campus community. It’s a problem that was made more urgent by the pandemic.
“As we started assessing and surveying and finding the insecurity needs, then it was like, how do we get a food pantry going?” said SKC Health Education coordinator Tammy Sandberg. “So, we actually wrote a proposal for the administration to help us with COVID money to see if we could get something in a short time. We turned it around in two weeks and used this space to make it happen. “
The crew operates like a well-oiled machine and in fact, it was hard to keep up with them.
Their clients select the food they’d like then volunteers bag it up and deliver it -- always with a smile. It's about choice, compassion, and community.
“One of the big things we had to overcome was students feeling like they – there's a stigma that we have to break with the food pantry. And one of the return comments we’ve gotten through our surveys is that people are just amazed at how welcomed they feel whether they’re supplementing their food so they can buy gas. Or whether they just need food on the table. - SKC Health Education coordinator Tammy Sandberg
“It helps out a lot, it really does. Especially in the time after the pandemic and everything, you know?” one person using the food bank told us.
SKC Director of Community Health and Development Alana Bahe says it’s an act of love and service.
“Salish Kootenai College has always known there was a food insecurity component with our students,” Bahe explained. “I think if anything, we continue to learn and grow our understanding about what food insecurity really is and how it affects our college campus.”
Dawnette Swank – who is a single mother with six children working on a double major – says she utilizes Food Box Fridays -- and works there, too.
“The people care about you. The people that are serving here and volunteering care about the students and the staff and their families. It feels really great to work here,” Swank said.
Others also know that the bags of food provide sustenance for body and soul. And for as slick as the operation is, they want to do more.
“This is something that we want to make sustainable and right now we have a food access committee which I chair. That we are trying to figure out our next steps,” Sandberg said. “This was kind of like our band-aid to make it happen to get food out there to our campus and our families. And then how do we make it sustainable. We’re working on some grants through USDA, and we’ve partnered with everybody here to make this happen.” - SKC Health Education coordinator Tammy Sandberg
“It’s serving a need and filling a gap for people that don’t necessarily have access or funding to get food regularly, so we’ve had really positive feedback,” Bahe concluded.