Viking Food Pantry helps students during pandemic

Valdar helps Del Mar officials open the Viking Food Pantry in April 2019. The pantry allows participants to receive up to 35 pounds of food twice each month.

More than 3K pounds of food distributed in January alone

Since April 2019, the Viking Food Pantry has continued to help many Del Mar College students despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opened in partnership with the Coastal Bend Food Bank and with the support of Student Government Association,  the Viking Food Pantry allows participants to receive up to 35 pounds of food twice each month.

“Like most services, COVID-19 did affect the VFP operations,” said Rita Hernandez, the assistant dean of Student Engagement and Retention. The pantry was closed between March and July of 2020, but they still distributed food from the parking lot on distribution days, adjusting to now provide what they call the Pandemic Pantry Pick-up. 

Previously, eligible students have been able to browse the pantry to select the items they wanted. Now, food is pre-packed into a reusable bag, and eligible students have a scheduled pickup time to help ensure social distancing.

These are not the only changes taking place at the Viking Food Pantry right now.

“The Coastal Bend Food Bank, with a Healthy Foods grant, will be supplying the VFP with a new freezer,“ Hernandez said. “We are excited about increasing meal options for participants.”

The Food Bank allows Del Mar to purchase discount food to stock the pantry, which offers many dry and canned goods, including cereal, rice, beans, spices, condiments, juice, snacks and more to students who would otherwise have to go without a meal. The addition of a freezer will allow the pantry to provide participants with fresh veggies and frozen foods.

“The Food Pantry does not accept direct donations; however, because we have partnered with the Coastal Bend Food Bank we encourage those who can donate to do so through the Coastal Bend Food Bank,” Hernandez said. “All our inventory comes directly from the Coastal Bend Food Bank.”

In addition, while events are currently limited, the Viking Food Pantry sometimes holds large distributions at which they welcome volunteers. When these days are scheduled, emails are sent to all DMC students with more information. 

“We know learning can be a challenge when food insecurity is present,”  Hernandez said. “The college is committed to student support, and establishing the VFP is an additional way to support student success.”

The food pantry is a service that is available to all currently enrolled DMC students in need of it. All they need is to get a referral, fill out the proper forms, and meet the eligibility guidelines found on the website. Students can self-refer, or other students, staff or community members can refer them.

“I have received services from the food pantry,” SGA President Sofia Jimenez said. “I have also had students contact me for food, and I have referred them to the food pantry. It’s wonderful that DMC is providing this service. I have been there, like I’m sure so many others.”

According to Jimenez, one of these students was Dina Garza, who found her and her family without food right before Thanksgiving break. While all of the other resources in Corpus Christi were unable to help with such short notice, the Viking Food Pantry was able to provide her with the food she needed. 

“My experience with the Del Mar Food Pantry was so awesome, especially during this time of the epidemic,” Garza said. “They met the needs of my family and me when I didn’t have any food at all. I am a working, studying single mother that doesn’t receive any SNAP benefits. It has been a long road and there is a long road ahead still, but with the help of the pantry, I know we will be OK.”

It is not always easy to ask for help, but the Food Pantry makes it easy for students to get what they need.

“They are there for us and they care,” Garza said. “There is nothing to be afraid of, that’s what they are there for. They are there to help.”

The Viking Food Pantry has helped many more DMC students as well. In January alone, a total of 3,115 pounds of food were distributed to 60 participants over the course of 89 visits.

“The SGA is committed to serving our student body,” said Caitlin Gosson, the SGA vice president. ”So by supporting the Food Pantry, we are supporting the students who are in need of the resources being provided.” 

For more information, call 361-698-2401 or email foodpantry@delmar.edu, or read more at  https://www.delmar.edu/offices/engage/food-pantry.html.

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