Orange Coast College has named Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County as its “Community Partner of the Year” for 2020-2021.
Second Harvest will be recognized at the College’s 73rd annual virtual Commencement ceremony on May 28.
OCC faculty and staff have worked together with Second Harvest for several years to distribute food and other basic needs to students through the food bank’s College Pantry Program. Over the past year, as the pandemic caused by COVID-19 forced the closure of OCC’s on-campus food pantry, the Pirates’ Cove, Second Harvest worked closely with the College to organize distribution of food boxes to students in need.
“For many years Second Harvest has been an integral partner in our efforts to address food insecurity and a lack of basic needs among our student population,” says OCC President Angelica Suarez. “In the past year, as the pandemic posed tremendous challenges for our students, Second Harvest worked diligently with us to continue to provide that support, distributing essential food supplies to our most vulnerable students each week.”
Food insecurity among college students is prevalent, with studies showing that on average, U.S. college students are three times more likely to experience food insecurity than the general population. Currently, Second Harvest provides food and basic needs support to 12 colleges and universities within Orange County.
“We started the College Pantry program when we saw more research being done about food insecurity on college campuses, and recognized students are a vulnerable and more at-risk population,” says Second Harvest Director of Programs and Services Ellie Dinh. “We’ve focused on creating a program model around compassionate service, and we push our partners to focus on that as well. For example: creating a name for the space that is not ‘food pantry,’ and making the space accessible and welcoming.”
Dinh, herself an alumni of Orange Coast College, immediately thought of OCC when she saw the data and first conceived of a specialized college program. “When we started the College Pantry Program, I immediately thought ‘we have to get this at OCC,’” she says. She worked closely with OCC Nutrition and Dietetics Professor Beth Blake — who serves on the Second Harvest Nutrition Advisory Council — and OCC’s Student Equity Program Director Maricela Sandoval as the College made plans to expand its existing panty with the opening of Pirates’ Cove.
Starting last summer, employees and volunteers with OCC’s Pirates’ Cove food pantry distribute food boxes and other basic needs to students in a contactless “drive up” event that takes place weekly. Typically, the College serves approximately 100-150 students each week.
“It’s amazing that OCC has figured out a way to adapt and make it so that students are still able to access this resource. It’s great to see the College rally and figure out how to continue providing that service for their students,” says Dinh.