New Food Resource for Underserved Students

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Wizard's Warehouse Open House Image

Jen O’Bryan-Taft, Re-Entry Center Specialist leads a Wizard's Warehouse Open House on Aug. 24 to familiarize TMCC staff members with the new food pantry.

“Some of our students haven’t eaten in three days,” said Joan Steinman, Ed.D., Director of Retention and Support Services.

The Wizard’s Warehouse food and personal care items pantries have now opened at Truckee Meadows Community College Dandini Campus and at Meadowood Center. Students and staff needing emergency food are encouraged to email to make an appointment.

Dr. Steinman and Jen O’Bryan-Taft, Re-Entry Center Specialist, agreed that counselors and staff members are dedicated to bring prompt help to students who need food resources.

“All emails will be responded to within 24 hours between the weekdays of Mondays through Thursdays,” O’Bryan-Taft said. “Please allow more time for response over the weekend.”

  • When: Opens Monday, Aug. 29 for Fall Semester
  • Dandini Campus: Red Mountain Building, room 325J
    (Note: Dandini Campus pantry is by appointment. For crisis, stop by and check with a counselor or staff member.)
  • Meadowood Center: MDWS, room 218, Thursdays, from 8 a.m.-noon are open pantry hours

“We’ll also bag up food and bring it over to the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center when needed,” she said. “We can also use part of our emergency fund from staff contributions to purchase food.”

How Wizard’s Warehouse Began

The idea for a TMCC food pantry began during Fall Semester 2015 as an organic evolution originating from several people as they became aware of each other’s similar concerns.

“Different staff members started bringing in granola bars and fruit when they began to see students needing food,” Steinman said. “An unofficial committee formed at this time and we call it the ‘Student Resources Team.’ There is a group of like-minded people here who want to build that safety net for students.”

The team pooled their efforts.

“We started packaging food into bags and also contacted the Food Bank of Northern Nevada,” Steinman said. “We also reached out to the University of Nevada, Reno and asked about any similar programs there to help out under-resourced students.”

They soon realized there were other needs, such as toiletries and personal care items that are typically not covered by food stamp programs.

“The Fill a Bag campaign started from there, and during the drive in February we had an outpouring of support from TMCC’s faculty and staff,” she added. “Also, an emergency fund began for students if they have a need for things like a sudden housing crisis or utility bill or car repair. TMCC employees can contribute through payroll deductions.”

The Fill a Bag effort collected more than 500 toothbrushes, about 100 boxes of Kleenex and baby wipes, more than 200 bars of soap, over 100 brushes, combs and hair accessories, 50 bottles of shampoos/conditioners, 100 bars of deodorant and many more items.

Students who are in need are referred by faculty and staff to O’Bryan-Taft, who manages supplies in the Warehouse. College staff or students may visit the student resources page or email for more information. Students can also find information on the Re-Entry Center's website, or the direct link is printed on pocket-sized handout cards distributed by staff members.

“We now have a formal agreement with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada—we are a Food Bank partner,” Steinman said. “TMCC will be able to access food resources of the Food Bank, and also contribute back when we can.”

When students express their need and apply to participate in the food pantry, staff will collect only the information from the student that the Food Bank of Northern Nevada (FBNN) requires.

Annual Resource Fair

TMCC hosts Resource Fairs each semester, typically in November and April.

“After the Fair, we will expand our Friday resource day events to be scheduled on different and additional days of the week and there will be a greater number of resource agencies,” Steinman said. “Students can fill out a food stamp application between classes, for instance.”

Steinman points out that the need for food is a priority and comes before aspirations for college and career fulfillment.

“It makes it harder to be a successful student if you’re struggling with shelter and food,” she said. “We can connect under-resourced students with help for shelter to fill a temporary need so they can find the next steps to get ahead.”

She added that the Fill a Bag campaign will evolve into a more sustainable permanent collection effort, with bags provided to the various departments at TMCC. Wizard’s Warehouse will also be made available to others in the TMCC community such as part-time instructors in need, classified staff and student workers.

“Once students know about the services available to them, they’re here working on the computers all the time, exploring how they can apply to some of the programs,” O’Bryan-Taft said. “You can see them grow into TMCC.”

For more information about resources for students, contact the Counseling Center at 775-673-7060.