By Alayna Simons
Assistant News Editor
A new food pantry designed to make food available to college students before academic breaks is up and running at Trevecca Community Church.
Rebecca’s House debuted this month in the lobby of TCC where 63 students showed up to get food. A horseshoe shaped set-up of groceries and a social event with snacks and coffee were provided for students who stopped by.
“It’s available to anyone, no matter what situation,” said Jeremy Height, college pastor for Trevecca Community Church. “When you come to the event, you are welcomed and told of the social event options and needs and then taken around to get your groceries freely. From there, you pick any 10 items from the tables of groceries that are provided.”
The options of groceries provided at the kickoff included mac and cheese, ramen, canned goods, bread, peanut butter, rice, cough drops, granola bars, oatmeal and 20 dozen eggs provided by the Trevecca Urban Farm.
“If all we have to do is hand out a couple of boxes of mac and cheese to make somebody a better student, why wouldn’t we do that?” said Zack Church, assistant director of residence life.
This past summer, Church attended a conference that talked about the prevalence of food insecurity on college campuses, which inspired him to start this initiative at Trevecca. On a campus with a high international student population who do not have local communities and support, Church recognized that the demographics have shifted significantly.
“Food insecurity is a spectrum, but what we tend to think is that if someone needs food assistance then they have to be starving and have zero access to food,” said Church. “That is the very severe end of the spectrum of food insecurity, but we have to remember that we’re dealing with a diverse community.”
At the conference he attended, Church compiled research on food insecurity among college students. One out of five college students experience food insecurity, and up to 40% of college students experience food insecurity at some point during their time at school.
“Everyone from students who don’t have meal plans, to those who commute from home and their families need extra food, to those who have a meal plan but need extra groceries for when they don’t want to go to the cafeteria, everyone is welcome,” said Height.
After Church spoke at an SGA meeting to promote Rebecca’s House, Carolyn Johnson, student development AmeriCorps Vista and volunteer facilitator, rose to the challenge and wanted to help.
“I think it’s important to get the word out about it because there are definitely more people than we know that have the need that didn’t come,” said Johnson.
Height said providing food security for students is the goal of this food pantry as well as establishing another practical avenue the community can come together to help one another.
“In order to thrive or even function in society, you must have some of those essential areas in life met, like having enough calories,” said Height. “For students to be able to have one less stress on their life that would keep them from being able to be in the right relationship with God, themselves and others in the world. Being able to help students succeed here at Trevecca and succeed in life makes it all worth it.
The food pantry is a good environment to share needs and voice concerns, destigmatizing the fear of having a need in the process because the people there are willing to help, said Johnson.
“It’s largely about destigmatizing food insecurity,” said Church.
After seeing a student that he used to teach come to the event not only receive food but donate groceries of their own, Height expressed that there were many moments that revealed the impact of this event to him.
“Talking with individual students, they gave expressions of gratitude and specific examples in their lives of why it was helpful to them,” said Height.
After this event, the leftovers of food were included at a separate neighborhood stand held at the Trevecca Towers the next day.
“Just to see the campus, including the church, the college, the retirement communities and the urban farm all sort of being a part of the same program that’s all rooted in food insecurity, is Kingdom work,” said Church. “It’s cool to see the ways in which we come together to be the body of Christ.”