LEMOORE — In its third year on campus, the West Hills College Lemoore Eagle Pantry Club continues to help feed hungry students.
Club members were out in front of the school’s library Thursday handing out donated food to help students avoid being hungry.
Eagle Pantry Club president Erik Sanchez said the club’s goal has been to prevent food waste and to give it back to students who could be in need. Donations come from food that went unsold locally and would have been thrown out.
“It took us awhile to get up and running,” he said. “But recently it’s been steady.”
A study released earlier this month by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness noted that nearly 22 percent of college students qualified as needing food.
Sanchez said the club has seen a growth in membership and currently has around 20 members. The group meets and distributes food weekly.
Each Thursday, the group sets up tables in front of the library handing out food to students who have their student IDs. Some donations come from local eateries, like Panera Bread, as well as food banks through Feeding America food bank network. Anything not given away goes to local shelters.
Sanchez said the club has been able to hand out food to about 75 students each week. The club is part of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a national nonprofit organization that includes 191 chapters at different colleges across the country. West Hills Lemoore is one of just three community colleges in California with a chapter, according to the FRN website.
When Sanchez was a freshman, he said his family needed help and he was able to take food home through the club.
But after his family got in a better position financially, he continued helping with the club.
Having regular donations, Sanchez said, has helped the club get the word out more regularly to people who don’t know it exists and could use the help.
“It gives us a chance to promote the club and our goal,” Sanchez said of handing out food weekly. “There are a lot of people who don’t know about us or are just embarrassed to get the help.”
Club member Jordan Bushman helped hand out food on Thursday.
“It’s nice to give back to the community,” Bushman said. “It’s nice to feel like you’re a part of something.”
While Sanchez said the club’s goal is to primarily help students, he’d like to see the club and donations grow so it could do more community events and also hand out toiletries.
Last year, the club handed out food between Thanksgiving and Christmas. During the Christmas event, free photos with Santa Claus were offered. Sanchez said the club hopes to do the same this year.
“There are a lot of families out there who don’t get to celebrate those holidays,” Sanchez said. “We want to try and help so they can.”