Fayetteville Technical Community College on Tuesday opened a food pantry to help students who are dealing with the financial downturn associated with the coronavirus.
The pantry, located in the Early Childhood Education Center, is an extension of the college’s efforts to help students in economic hardship caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, school officials said.
FTCC President Larry Keen said many students face a variety of financial challenges during regular times, but the pandemic has made the situation much worse.
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Keen said at the grand opening ceremony for the pantry that students come to FTCC to feed their minds, “and with this pantry, we can help feed their bodies as well.”
Jordan McLean, vice president of the college’s Student Government Association, said many students right now are dealing with food insecurity and they might hesitate to go to a regular food pantry because of a perceived stigma. But they won’t feel that way about a pantry intended to help students, McLean said.
“Basically, we are just taking care of our students,” he said.
Catherine Pritchard, executive director of public relations and marketing for the college, said the food pantry is a continuation of an effort by the FTCC Foundation started in the spring to raise money for students adversely affected by the coronavirus.
During the pandemic, the college has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid to needy students through federal CARES Act funding, college officials said. The FTCC Foundation also has provided tens of thousands of dollars in other aid to students in need.
“Some of them have extreme needs because of the coronavirus,” Pritchard said. “This (pantry) offers more ways to reach out.”
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Sandy Ammons, executive director of the FTCC Foundation, said while there has always been a need to help students who may be short of money for food, the need has never been greater than during the pandemic.
Now, many students who had jobs either don’t have them anymore or their hours are cut back, she said.
“It’s so extreme now,” Ammons said.
The pantry will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the more than 11,000 college students at the Early Childhood Education Center, 2230 Hull Road on the FTCC campus. The pantry has nonperishable food and personal care items donated by FTCC employees and students as well as the public.
Eligible students may also be issued supermarket gift cards to purchase foods not available at the pantry.
Over the past five fiscal years, the FTCC Foundation has distributed more than $200,000 in aid to hundreds of students facing a crisis or unforeseen circumstance that put them in jeopardy of becoming homeless and dropping out of school, Ammons said.
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Requests for aid have peaked before and after hurricanes, Ammons said, but they are higher now than ever.
“We have seen the highest number of requests for assistance because of COVID-19,” she said. “FTCC faculty and staff have given generously to the student relief fund, but there is still significant unmet need.”
Ammons said on average, only 25% of applications students file for the aid are funded. Also, 80% of the applicants are women, many of whom are working mothers.
“At the foundation, part of what we do is raise money for the college to provide scholarships, but a big part of what we do is manage student emergency assistance,” she said. “We have funds that pay for rent, utilities, transportation. A big part of it is food, so the food pantry will help our students who are facing food insecurity.”
The most sought-after foods include canned fruit, meat, tuna, chicken, soup and vegetables, as well as cereal, coffee, crackers, dry beans, jelly, pasta, rice, peanut butter, ramen noodles and tomato sauce.
Hygiene products being solicited include feminine products, shampoo, soap, tooth brushes, toothpaste and grocery store gift cards.
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“We also have been working with donors and grocery stores to provide gift cards for those students who need it to get the perishable items,” Ammons said.
She said the pantry initially will be only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays but that could change over time.
“After the holidays, we will sense the need and grow from there,” she said.
Ammons said the foundation is encouraging different organizations, including civic and student groups, to plan food drives as part of the holiday season to help stock the pantry.
“It’s open to anybody who would like to donate,” she said. “We have a lot of folks who are friends of the college who want to give and want to buy things or donate money toward it.”
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Donations of nonperishable food and personal care items may be taken between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays to FTCC’s Property Control Office at 284 Hull Road, across from the Rose Garden.
Cash or gift cards donated for the pantry should be taken to the FTCC Foundation office, located in Room 114 of Harry F. Shaw Virtual College Center at 2225 Hull Road.
Monetary donations for the pantry may be made online at faytechcc.edu/giving or by calling the Foundation at 910-678-8441.
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Staff writer John Henderson can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3596.