Cowlitz Tribe helps students overcome food insecurity

 In News
Clark College Foundation accepts $10,000 gift for Clark’s Penguin Pantry and NERD Cave


Members of the Cowlitz Tribe provided Clark College Foundation with $10,000 to assist Clark College students who struggle with food insecurity. The donation helps stock the shelves of Clark’s Penguin Pantry, a food resource, and the NERD Cave, an area in Clark’s STEM building with food supplies for students.

As part of Clark’s guided pathways framework—the college’s academic makeover—services have been created or enhanced to help students find solutions to issues that might prevent them from completing their educational goals. Clark is addressing the issue of hunger on campus by making food available to students in need.

Cowlitz Tribe members

Cowlitz Tribe members Phil Harju, left, and his daughter and Clark STEM professor, Ellen Harju, present CEO Lisa Gibert with $10,000 to help Clark students overcome hunger.

Penguin Pantry is a welcoming place on Clark’s main campus in Vancouver for students to microwave a meal or pick up snacks and nonperishable groceries. Students also have occasional access to school supplies, winter clothing and toiletry items when items are available. The pantry is open three hours a day when classes are in session: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Visits to the pantry have increased more than 3,200% since it opened in the summer of 2017. At that time, there were 48 visits over the course of the quarter; in fall 2018, there were 1,609. The average per day visits were 31 in fall 2018, compared to 13 average visits per day in summer 2018, according to the latest available data from the pantry.

The NERD Cave is an informal gathering area in Clark’s STEM building where students can access food between classes. Stocked with donations from faculty, staff and students, the NERD Cave is a lifesaver for students who can’t make it to the Penguin Pantry during its open hours. A microwave, refrigerator and modest cupboard are available to students when the building is open.

A student experience survey conducted by Clark College in winter 2018 revealed that 32% of Clark students experienced food insecurity in the past year. Additionally, Clark College’s student population comprises pre-college and college-level students, 76% of whom are first-generation, 39% are low-income and 34% identify as people of color. The average age is 26.

Clark College Foundation has many opportunities to support students experiencing hunger and facing financial barriers. For more information, contact Kathy Chennault, director of development, corporate and foundation relations, at 360.992.2271.

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