When the Chris Lamm & Toni Dubois-Walker Memorial Food Bank opened its doors to students in 2012, champions of the project established it as a collaborative labor of love to help address the growing number of Fullerton College students experiencing food insecurity, hunger, and in some cases homelessness.
Much of the work fell to volunteers and staff who made it their personal mission to help feed as many students in need. Today, the Chris Lamm & Toni Dubois-Walker Memorial Food Bank continues that legacy, providing students with one of life’s basic needs – food. But the support goes beyond food. At the food bank, students are cared for, listened to, and referred to other vital resources in the community, knowing that all of these factors will lead to a student’s overall success.
“When a student has more connections or social support here on campus, they tend to do better, they tend to stay, and they tend to graduate,” said Jullean Cardenas, who has a big hand in running the food bank. Cardenas is one of the many staff members on campus who is passionate about serving students at the food bank. He started volunteering there when he was a student at FC in 2012. Today, he serves as the coordinator of the food bank and helps train nearly 85 student-volunteers each semester. He also devotes his time to organizing canned food drives, picking up food from larger food banks in Orange County, and providing food bank visitors a warm and welcoming environment.
“I try to cater to every student as much as possible,” Cardenas said. “If they need someone to talk to, I’m here to listen. If they have special dietary needs, I try to offer them food that fits their dietary restrictions.”
The food bank, which is open to students enrolled in three or more units, helped feed nearly 1,000 students during the 2015-2016 year. This expressed need, prompted Fullerton College to help raise additional funds for the food bank last year. During the first ever Fullerton College Night at Angel Stadium on April 9, Fullerton College raised over $14,000 from ticket sales, which went directly to the food bank. Also in April, Fullerton College volunteers participated in the City of Fullerton’s annual city-wide service day, Love Fullerton, and collected 2,000 canned food and non-perishable items to help fill and stock the food bank.
Vanessa Miller, Dr.PH, Director of Health Services reports that the food bank saw 398 new students during the 2015-2016 year. In addition, 583 students re-visited the food bank to obtain food and/or additional resources. Miller estimates this growth will continue as more and more students learn about the food bank and during a time when food insecurity among people in the U.S. is at an all-time high. Current research estimates that 21 to 59 percent of college students in the U.S. experience food insecurity.
During a recent American College Health Assessment survey, which Miller conducted at Fullerton College in the spring, 51 percent of students indicated that financial stress was traumatic for them. The same percentage also indicated that family problems were traumatic.
“Using this data, efforts are being made to provide students with more nutritional food and beverage choices at the food bank,” Miller said.
The food bank follows the “Choose My Plate” model created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This means all the food available at the food bank includes the five “My Plate” categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. Students visiting the food bank have the option to fill up one grocery bag with one to two items from each category. “We try to get everyone as much food as possible,” Cardenas said.
Additionally, when the food bank is open, an intern from the Cal-Fresh Program is available to assist students applying for Cal-Fresh, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Miller stated that many other California colleges recognize the need to have food banks accessible to students at their campuses and have looked to Fullerton College as a model to initiate this process.