Although Valley will not host a food bank this holiday season, students can still receive meal assistance through Kroger cards.
By Marcos Franco, Staff Writer
All nine LACCD campuses are hosting food and gift card distribution services for qualified students in order to provide groceries to those experiencing financial hardship prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
While each college will hold some sort of meal assistance distribution, only six campuses will serve as food banks. Valley College, along with Mission and Pierce College, will be designated solely as grocery-gift-card distribution centers. Access to each event requires valid student identification; however, only five require pre-registration. CalWORKs will administer disbursements for Valley College through the aid of Helping Hands Food Pantry and CalFresh. Although Valley will not be hosting a food drive this holiday season, eligible students can still receive a $50 Kroger (Ralphs) gift card.
“We hope that students can supplement this gift card with other resources so that they can have nutritious meals with their loved ones,” said Alicen Vera, CalWORKs coordinator at Valley. “We have many resources for students experiencing food insecurities on our website; most importantly, we encourage all students to apply for CalFresh.”
In order to qualify for a grocery gift card, students do not need to be enrolled full time; however, Valley must be their home campus. Under normal circumstances, the college would offer a food drive for the holiday season but since the pandemic, campus officials decided gift cards were the better option. Students will be notified via email if chosen and cards will be handed out starting Nov. 23 between 1 to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only. Students experiencing homelessness or who do not qualify for financial aid are prioritized in the selection process. Distributions will take place at the roundabout in front of campus on Fulton and Hatteras.
Valley is distributing 60 Kroger cards for November, which come from community donors. Depending on the final amount of donations, officials feel a second card disbursement in December is possible. Individuals who cannot make it to campus for the event may be mailed cards, but shipping is costly ($21 per student). At the moment, electronic gift cards are not an option but are expected in the future.
While Thanksgiving is an especially important time to pay it forward, Valley provides meal and financial assistance services to students through the Helping Hands Project year-round. The program is an exclusive fund under the LAVC Foundation that supports students struggling with homelesness and food insecurities. Upon application approval, students are given access to resources and referrals such as grants to help them combat food and housing shortage.
Two in three students are food insecure among community college students nationwide, according to The Christian Science Monitor. While there are multiple factors that contribute to student success, a sufficient food supply is a priority.
“It’s not just about getting an ‘A’ or a ‘B’,” said Ellie Rabani, CalWORKs director at Valley. “If you are hungry, you can’t study.”
Helping Hands is run by volunteers and relies on the help of community donations to continue providing services to students in need. To donate, visit the Foundation website.