BY Amanda Sotelo
One snack-size Ziploc bag with ramen or canned corn is a usual meal for Texas State Technical College Biology student Veronica Lopez.
“I have to divide my food and ration to make a small meal last for several days,” she said. “But a little of something is better than nothing.”
It is for students like Lopez that TSTC Staff Senate is hosting an annual food drive to benefit TSTC’s Charlie’s Pantry, which serves students living on campus, and the Student Center Pantry, which serves commuting students.
Lopez is a first-generation college student and comes from a low-income family and receives most, if not all, of her meals from TSTC’s Charlie’s Pantry.
The 19-year-old said at times she has lived solely on water, needing to drink plenty to feel full and never knowing what to say when people comment on her thin body.
“If not for the pantry, there would be days I wouldn’t eat at all,” said Lopez. “Right now I have nothing in my fridge.”
Lopez is nervous though because the pantry is running low on food and she is not the only one who relies on it.
TSTC Interim Housing Director Andrea Salas said this semester alone she has helped nearly 60 students with food.
“Our students rely heavily on this pantry,” she said. “And this semester the need seems to have increased. We can’t let our students go hungry.”
Both pantries run exclusively on donations and depend on the food and monetary donations received during this annual drive.
Fortunately, for Charlie’s Pantry, a community member generously donated $500 during last year’s food drive. The donation, to date, is still supplying frozen foods such as TV dinners for TSTC students.
Sharon Foster, TSTC Staff Senate president, said their goal is to alleviate students’ hunger and the stress of not knowing where their next meal will come from.
“Between tuition, books and housing, food most of the time doesn’t fit in the budget,” said Foster.
The hunger problem is not unique to colleges in South Texas. In a study done by Wisconsin Hope Lab and Feeding America, 50 percent of college students nationwide struggle with not having enough food, with the majority clustered in the low-income, first-generation group.
“Having to decide between food and an education should not be a decision they have to make,” Foster added.
The TSTC Staff Senate Food Drive runs through December 21, with boxes in nearly every building on campus including the Student Services Center, Engineering Center and the Nursing Education Center.
“In past years students, faculty, staff and the community have really come through for our students,” said Foster. “I’m positive we will get the pantries fully stocked again.”
As for Lopez, she said her goal is to graduate as a dental hygienist so she can help provide for her little brother and mother and get out of their current situation of never having enough.
TSTC’s Staff Senate is accepting both food and monetary donations. To help, call 956-364-4023.