Food

Polk State’s food pantries provide essential resources for students in need

Polk State’s food pantries provide essential resources for students in need
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Posted by Polk Newsroom

According to the United Way of Central Florida, more than 95,000 people in Polk County — about 15% of residents — aren’t sure they have enough food to feed their families three meals a day. For Polk State College students, there is on-campus help.

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Since 2017, the Lakeland Campus has been home to the Polk State Pantry, which provides students struggling with food insecurity with snacks, home-cooked meals, hygiene products, and more.

“When we started this, there was a nationwide conversation about students dealing with food insecurity,” said Kim DeRonda, Polk State Testing and Tutoring Manager at the Teaching Learning Computing Center (TLCC). “Polk County is not one of the most advantaged communities. We wanted to respond to the need for resources of our students. We have opened the door for teachers and staff to volunteer their time and have done what we can to help.”

The Pantry is located in LLC-2155A and relies on donations. It accepts non-perishable dry goods such as snack bars, cereals, peanut butter, as well as hygiene products, frozen foods and fresh produce. Cash donations are also accepted and can be made online here.

The Pantry currently has no fixed opening hours, but DeRonda expects that to change soon. Students in need of resources may contact TLCC staff in person or at 863.297.1044 or DeRonda at kderonda@polk.edu. Times can be arranged to accommodate students and the services are confidential. The Pantry is looking for employees and teachers, volunteers and donations.

“We want to make sure students in need know they’re welcome,” DeRonda said. “It’s important that those students have these resources.”

My Brother’s Keeper is located at WST-128 on the Winter Haven Campus and offers similar services. My Brother’s Keeper, staffed with student and part-time staff, is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or by appointment. Earlier this week, My Brother’s Keeper received a $6,000 donation from Publix Super Markets Charities.

My Brother’s Keeper is also the facilitator of the Soar Healthy Eagles program. Funded by the Florida Blue Foundation Food Security Grant, Soar Healthy Eagles partners with the United Way of Central Florida, Feeding Tampa Bay and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences Extension Office of Polk County to help students expand their nutritional knowledge increase and obtain resources.

Aspects of the program include guidance on signing up for SNAP, free healthy lunches, grocery shopping assistance and the chance to win gift cards. The program is available to Polk State students on all campuses.

Click here for more information about Soar Healthy Eagles. Click here to apply. For more information about My Brother’s Keeper or to make an appointment, call 863.297.1010, extension. 3423, or email SALO@polk.edu. You can donate online here.

All donations to Polk State Pantry or My Brother’s Keeper will be used to stock shelves for students in need. Students who are not food insecure can purchase snacks from vending machines or bookstores on both the Winter Haven and Lakeland campuses.

“Polk State Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper play a critical role in ensuring our students in need don’t go hungry,” said Melvin Thompson, director of Student Activities & Leadership Office. “Research shows that students learn better when they are well nourished.”

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