"Emily" is a full-time Butte College student and single mother of three children, ages 4, 7 and 10. She commutes 80-miles round trip each day to attend school and maintains a 4.0 GPA. A hard-working student and dedicated mother, "Emily" depends on financial aid to make ends meet and is barely able to pay her family's bills each month. With the spring semester ending and the winter break arriving, she is worried she won't have enough money to buy food for her children.
"Beverly" is a first-generation college student enrolled in 13 units at the college. She works as a tutor and respite care giver yet still does not earn enough money to support herself. She frequently goes hungry because she can't afford to buy food.
It's much the same with "Sally" who is an on-campus student employee. She attends classes, does well and receives financial aid yet goes hungry. Her co-workers have seen her shaking from hunger and have helped her out with meals.
"Jacob," is enrolled full-time and maintains a 3.69 GPA, works two jobs to support himself but, it still isn't enough. He was recently evicted from his home when his landlord defaulted on the mortgage and the bank foreclosed on the building. Now, "Jacob" is essentially homeless, sleeping on a friend's sofa and frequently going without food.
These are just a handful of the Butte College students who, due to the downturn in the economy, are struggling to survive.
According to campus officials, there are more students with similar needs on campus.
"We've known in Student Services and in the Health Clinic that we have students who are struggling and going hungry but this year, it's more prevalent and the faculty are hearing about this firsthand from students," said Karen Micalizio, Director of Financial Aid and Veteran Services.
Recognizing the growing need, faculty, students and staff at Butte College came together and brought the plight of these students to the attention of the College Council.
"It all started out very informally with faculty and staff wanting to get food to hungry students. Allen Renville Vice President of Student Services took on the assignment to do something about it in partnership with faculty and staff," explained Mike Rasmussen, Dean of Special Programs.
That was six weeks ago and the project, which started out as a canned food drive, has grown and will continue to grow under the direction of a small task force known as the "Food for Thought" Committee comprised of faculty and staff.
"It's all still in the early stages. We don't have a lot of structure or form or rules or procedures detailed yet. It's a grassroots effort of the faculty and staff to care for the students," said Rasmussen.
The canned food drive quickly turned into a Holiday Food Basket drive and faculty and staff began assembling the baskets with donations from the Butte College family as well as from the Greater Oroville Homeless Task Force. The goal says Micalizio, is to fill Renville's outer office to over flowing with food baskets and distribute them to hungry students before the last day of the semester, December 19.
In addition to the food baskets, students in need may also receive "debit cards" for a meal at the campus cafeteria. These cards were funded by a $1,500 donation from Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College President, who withdrew the money from the President's Foundation account to pay for the cards, according to Rasmussen. Students in need may request these cards from faculty members and Student Services.
The "Food For Thought" task force has also printed "resource cards" for students which are available throughout the campus. These business card sized cards list community resource organizations and agencies throughout Butte and Glenn counties where students may receive help with food and other needs.
"This all came together very quickly. When we contacted the community groups they were all very excited to hear what we were doing and completely open to helping and answering questions," says Micalizio.
Rasmussen concurred, "There is an awful lot of support for this project from every group we've contacted and every one we've spoken to -on and off campus. There's a lot of need in this area and that need is only going to become greater."
While the project began as a temporary stop-gap to help students and their families through the holidays, the commitment has grown. The "Food for Thought" task force is now looking at ways to create an on-going resource to feed the hungry on campus by establishing a student food pantry," said Micalizio.
"Our intent is to make this an on-going service, to sustain a program that helps feed our students. What we endeavor to do next semester is to start a food pantry where students who have hunger issues can go and get food for themselves and their families," she said. "We need a campus location for the pantry, volunteers to staff it and resources to stock it. But so far the response to this has been overwhelming. Our faculty and staff have really come together."
In coming together, the Butte College family is already making a difference for students like "Emily," "Beverly," "Sally" and "Jacob," who along with other students have already received holiday food baskets and along with those baskets, some hope for a brighter future.