State college seeks to help students in need

When people think about others in need, they don’t necessarily picture college students.

But, Pasco-Hernando State College sees the need and has opened a food pantry to help students who are lacking basic necessities.

The Bobcat Food Pantry operates at each of the college’s campuses, which are located in Brooksville, New Port Richey, Dade City, Wesley Chapel and Spring Hill.

Karen Swetland, left, a staff member of Pasco-Hernando State College’s Dade City branch, stands next to Penny Morrell, of the Kiwanis Club of Dade City. The club has been providing the local school branch with food and hygiene products for students who may lack these items. (Courtesy of Laurel Weightman)

Sarah Brunet, who works for the state college also is the pantry coordinator.

Brunet said it became apparent to college staff that there was a need to help students at each of the college’s locations.

“It was just really a community awareness that came about to the college and really staff being on the pulse of the students’ needs,” Brunet said.

In addition to observation, the college conducted a survey to gather more information.

“From the results — really it was a little bit even more shocking than one might have thought,” Brunet said.

Besides lacking access to a sufficient supply of food, the college discovered that some of its students are homeless.

So, the college came up with a way to take aim at the problem.

All of its campuses were closed for a day in October for an All College Day event, and employees came together to collect donations for distribution at the five campuses.

Donations came in from the college’s faculty and staff to help address the need.

Collected items included nonperishable foods and hygiene items, including soap, shampoo and deodorant.

Any students who need some help can pick up some of these items, Brunet said, noting students don’t have to meet any specific requirements or fill out forms.

The college also provides mental health counseling and refers students to soup kitchens, other food pantries, employment opportunities and local organizations who may be able to assist them.

The Kiwanis Club of Dade City is one local organization that decided to help out, when it heard about the college students in need.

In general, the club tends to focus its efforts on young kids, but when they heard about the collegiate students’ need, they decided to address it.

“They (students) just don’t have the money to buy food,” said Penny Morrell, a club member. “Obviously they need the food in order to study and do what they need to do. You don’t want that kind of thing to cause them to stop going to college.”

So, every Tuesday in August, the club members would stock up a plastic tub of supplies and send it to the Dade City campus.

Amanda Burns is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Dade City, as well as a student at the city’s PHSC’s Dade City campus.

“I was really surprised at the situation some students faced,” she said.

She was excited when she heard that the college was starting a food pantry.

She mentioned that her fellow students would disclose their challenge of balancing classes, while working to support themselves and their families.

Some students also have multiple roommates, in order to afford rent, she added.

“We all are responsible for leaving our communities better than we found them,” Burns said. “If we all work together to lift up those who are struggling in our community, it leads to a successful community.”

The Kiwanis Club of Dade City plans to go before its board members to implement donation giveaways at the beginning of each school semester.

Brunet stated that the pantry has had a good turnout, allowed faculty to develop good relationships with students and has support to continue going forward.

“It’s been a very successful initiative for our students,” she said. “If students’ needs are being met, they’re more likely to be successful in class, and persevere and finish their degree.”

PHSC students who are interested in the service, can contact their local branch for dates and times of operation, as they may vary at each campus. Contact Sarah Brunet for further information at (727) 816-3348 or at .

Pasco-Hernando State College Bobcat Food Pantry
Where: Pasco-Hernando State College branches:

  • East Campus, 36727 Blanton Road, Dade City
  • Porter Campus, 2727 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel
  • North Campus, 11415 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Brooksville
  • Spring Hill Campus, 450 Beverly Court, Spring Hill
  • West Campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey

When: Times and dates vary by location. Check with contacts for specific information.
Details: Pasco-Hernando State College students can pick up needed food or hygiene products from their respective campuses. Counseling services and referrals for help also will be available on each campus.
Info: Contact Sarah Brunet at (727) 816-3348 or .

Published November 20, 2019

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