By Kimberly Linares, Staff Writer
Program on campus offers resources to students who need it and provides a food pantry to students twice a week.
Valley College provides students with the opportunity to benefit from on-campus resources made possible through the Helping Hands Project, like the food pantry.
The Helping Hands Project at Valley began in 2003, and since then has benefited students experiencing homelessness and/or food insecurities. The program is sponsored through CalWORKs, the Valley College Foundation, as well as other private donors to provide: food, housing, transportation and counseling. Through support and commitment, HHP strives to add to students educational goals and reduce incidents of homelessness and food troubles.
The program has multiplied this semester. Last year about 10 students were benefiting from the program; this year the amount has increased to 100. Students are referred through campus staff, once referred their situation is assessed, and then provided with adequate resources.
Every Monday, Helping Hands receives a delivery of organic produce from Food Forward, a local food bank. The distribution of the produce takes place Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Monarch Square. All students are welcome as long as they have their student I.D.
“It never came to my mind that my school could help me in the ways that Helping Hands has helped me,” says Steven Fuel a student at Valley majoring in Broadcasting. “Without their help the last couple of months, I would not have made it through.”
Among community college students, two in three students are food insecure and almost 14 percent are homeless, according to a 2016 survey by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab in Madison. Community colleges get funded to instruct students but providing students with basic necessities like food and shelter go beyond the classroom. Shelter is not directly provided through the HHP but they have created partnerships with housing organizations that can provide that help.
“I’m not saying we do everything for students, because housing is a big thing. But we have access to make their lives a little bit easier,” says Ellie Rabani, director of Valley’s CalWORKs program.
The food pantry is temporary help whereas with Cal Fresh a student can receive up to $200 a month if accepted to the program, and you only have to renew the application once a year.
HHP is located with the CalWORKs office at ACA 1101, and are open from Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.