Members of the West Texas A&M University and St. Ann’s Catholic Church communities will join efforts to establish The Market on Tierra Blanca Street food pantry to help students grappling with the challenges of hunger and food insecurity.
Situated just a mile away from the WT campus, The Market will be a short walk to students. The food pantry shows the collaboration between the campus and the local community in adding another resource for students.
According to an article by Feeding Texas, 29% of students at four-year universities and 38% of students at two-year colleges report experiencing hunger.
Shawn Fouts, senior director of campus community at WT, shares why The Market is important to students.
“What is food insecurity for WT is a reflection of the region we find ourselves in,” Fouts said. “We have an extraordinarily high percentage of single parents, low income, and low graduation rates, which all feed into food insecurity.”
The challenges faced by students and their circumstances extend beyond the lack of resources.
“We have students coming in that a lot of times are first-generation students,” Fouts said. “They don’t have a role model and they don’t have a model to follow of what it is to transgress for college. They often find themselves at the crossroads of essential decisions, ‘Do I pay rent? Do I pay my tuition? Do I live in this home and buy these items? Or do I buy food? Do I buy gas? Do I get to class?’”
The partnership highlights not only the commitment to the well-being of students but also the role that community organizations can play in addressing challenges faced by students.
“What I’m really excited about is a partnership with The Market at Tierra Blanca,” Fouts said. The market will be the food pantry for Randall County, with a specific emphasis on WT students, as they’re only a tenth of a mile away from the [First United Bank Center]. [WT] students will be able to access specific food items that they can prepare based on their living conditions.
The pantry will be stocked with non-perishable food items and fresh produce, ensuring that students can access nutritious meals.
Caden Bonilla, a junior majoring in biology, says this partnership is a win for WT students.
“I think food banks are a great resource, especially for college students, because they’re coming to a new place where they may struggle finding their grounding,” Bonilla said. “I would say that [food banks] have been a great help to college students all around, especially in providing [students] judgment-free care and the ability to get the meals that they need on a day-to-day basis.”
Food banks provide resources for college students facing food insecurity.
“Going to class on an empty stomach is one of the really big things that can deter students because it makes it harder to focus,” Bonilla said. “[If] you’re not feeding your body, you’re not feeding your brain. And when you’re malnourished, it makes it harder to function.”
Bonilla encouraged students to seek assistance and make use of campus resources available to them.
“I think the biggest thing is reducing that stigma around getting help, especially if it is for food because it’s not fair for someone to be scared to go get that help,” Bonilla said. “It’s not something to be ashamed of. There are resources [at WT] that want to help you and it’s just a matter of being willing to take that help.”
The Market on Tierra Blanca will have a soft launch on Nov. 14, with a grand opening on Jan. 2, 2024. As The Market opens its doors to the campus community, students can access various campus resources at wtamu.edu/studentaffairs.