DOBSON — The Little Free Pantry of Surry Community College is a small space that some hope will make a big impact to alleviate food insecurity for students on the Dobson campus.
Pastor Kennette Thomas, who is also an English and religion instructor at Surry Community College, spearheaded the Little Free Pantry effort as a collaboration between her church base, which is Central United Methodist Church in Mount Airy, along with the college and John Lambert of R.L. Construction who donated the college’s Little Free Pantry, which was erected on Feb. 12.
A formal dedication for the Little Free Pantry was held Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. The Little Free Pantry is located near the Deborah Freidman Library or the R-Building, close by the tennis courts.
“Just the other day, I heard about a student who was hungry. A staff member gave him some nabs,” Thomas said. “The Little Free Pantry of SCC will serve students who are hungry and need food immediately. We have students right here on our campus who are skipping meals because they lack financial means.”
Statistics show that close to 30,000 children in North Carolina experience homelessness, and while children have resources from K-12, they often find themselves facing homelessness while in college, according to the NC Homeless Education Program.
Homelessness and food insecurity go hand in hand as the College and University Food Bank Alliance reports that 50 percent of students at community colleges and 47 percent of students at four-year colleges consider themselves food insecure. College students cannot receive food stamps unless they are working 20 hours a week, which is difficult for students carrying a full class load.
The Little Free Pantry of Surry Community College is already open for business and has been stocked with donations including canned food, water bottles, ready-to-eat snacks and microwavable meals. Some gloves and toiletries including deodorant and toothpaste are also available. A simple message on a chalkboard sign offers directions for visitors: “Take what you need…give what you can.”
“The Little Free Pantry of SCC is designed for neighbors helping neighbors and is a national grassroots effort that is for a quick-need or acute situation,” Thomas said. “Food banks help people on a long-term effort, which requires a formal application whereas the Little Free Pantry helps people on a demand situation. The Little Free Pantry of SCC is somewhat anonymous as there is no paperwork to fill out to receive help. It fills in the gaps. Visitors simply take what they need, while other visitors can easily donate by stocking the shelves.”
Donations for the Little Free Pantry of Surry Community College will be accepted on an ongoing basis. Simply put the donations in the Little Free Pantry of SCC. Suggested non-perishable food items are: cereal or oatmeal packs (especially on-the-go packs); graham crackers; granola bars or protein bars; mac and cheese (especially microwavable singles); peanut butter; canned pasta; tuna pouches or easy-to-open cans; soups and chili (including microwavable singles); pork and beans; canned fruit/vegetables; easy-to-open fruit or pudding cups; popcorn and chips; cookies; packaged muffins; crackers; dried fruit; and boxed dinners (especially microwavable).
“The Little Free Pantry of SCC is an extension of care and support being offered to the Surry Community College campus,” college spokesperson Julie Pharr said in a written statement.
The Surry Women’s Association began the Closet to Success program, which offered students free business attire to help them be successful during job interviews and internships. The Closet to Success mission was expanded in November after a local student survey revealed that the number one cause of student stress is food insecurity and a lack of financial means to provide basic provisions for themselves and their family.
The resource is now named the Care Closet of SCC, stocked with a variety of clothes for adults, toiletries, and infant care items to serve a wider need base.
The Care Closet of SCC is available in the afternoons after 2 p.m. each weekday and between classes, as well as all morning long on Fridays. The Care Closet is supported by the SCC Women’s Association, Central United Methodist Church of Mount Airy, The Legacy Center of Mount Airy and the Yadkin Valley District of the Western N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“Everybody sometimes finds himself or herself in a little bind. If you are a student, staff member or faculty member at SCC and need personal hygiene products including feminine supplies, infant care products or clothing, the Care Closet of SCC is set up to help you,” Thomas said. “No questions are asked, and the services are free. Anyone who would like to support the Care Closet of SCC can make monetary donations to the Student Emergency Fund or Faculty/Staff Emergency Fund by contacting Marion Venable with the Surry Community College Foundation.”
Thomas explained that providing students with basic necessities can often have a great impact.
“If students are faced with tough choices like gas money to get to school or diapers, of course they will have to choose diapers. And if they don’t have to worry about these extra burdens, they are more free to attend classes or to focus on their studies, which, of course, makes it more likely they will put themselves on a path to better jobs and more stability and security for themselves and their families,” Thomas said.
Individuals should contact Kennette Thomas and Sarah Wright in the C-Building or Anne Marie Woodruff in the Student Services A-Building to secure items from the Care Closet of SCC. Donations for the Care Closet are also accepted on an ongoing basis.
“In the last month, we have helped people due to house fires, youth being forced into raising siblings and those fleeing abusive homes,” Thomas said.
To learn more about the national Little Free Pantry movement, go to www.littlefreepantry.org. Anyone with questions about making donations can contact Thomas at 336-386-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow all the Surry Community College Women’s Association’s endeavors on Facebook @SurryWomen.