Recently, TMCC’s Wizard Warehouse—the official name of our TMCC’s food pantry—received a Certificate of Recognition for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, for their outstanding performance as a Healthy Pantry Initiative Partner in 2019.
A recent Government Accountability Office report found that around 50 percent of college students nationwide are food insecure, meaning they do not have good access to sufficient and/or nutritious food. The GAO report further indicated that food insecurity is most prevalent on community college campuses, as these schools often attract students who are more likely to be a single parent or receive federal food-assistance benefits.
However, Wizard’s Warehouse isn’t just another food pantry: as a member of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s Healthy Pantry Initiative, the pantry distributes food and education that increases the accessibility, distribution, and consumption of healthy foods through the progressive adoption of strategies. Mike Escobar, Programs Specialist at the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, awarded the Certificate of Recognition to Cameron Tuttle, Counseling Center Coordinator and leader of Wizard’s Warehouse, who accepted the award on behalf of Wizard Warehouse staff, students, volunteers and donors.
“We always have 4–8 fresh items for people to choose from,” said Tuttle. “Currently, we have bags of potatoes, fresh cherries, squash, plums, broccoli, and chayote, a squash often used in stews from Central Mexico.” There are colorful signs in each of the pantries that discuss the health benefits of the items they carry. These—like all the information that’s offered at Wizard’s Warehouse—are offered in both English and Spanish.
The program, which has expanded to include locations at the Meadowood Center and most recently the William N. Pennington Applied Technologies Center, began as food staff would keep in their desks for students. “This was the brainchild of the Student Resource Committee,” said Tuttle. “It was just clear that students weren’t meeting their most basic needs. They would show up hungry, and it was really hard for them to focus in class.” That was in 2015. Since the Student Resource Committee formed a partnership with the Food Bank and moved into the space it currently occupies on the Dandini Campus. After securing a Capacity Grant, Wizard’s Warehouse added a refrigerator and freezer.
Wizard’s Warehouse at the Meadowood Center also had humble beginnings. “It started as a 3x6 storage closet,” said Tuttle. “After we wrote another Capacity Grant, we were able to expand into an office, and we’re in the process of getting a freezer there, too.”
The Wizard’s Warehouse located at the William N. Pennington Applied Technologies Center is also going through the process of obtaining a refrigerator and freezer. Tuttle envisions expanding Wizard’s Warehouse to all four TMCC learning centers.
Yet the mission of Wizard’s Warehouse isn’t merely to feed someone who is hungry: the goal is to connect students with community resources to make sure they are never hungry again. “In every pantry, we have info racks with flyers about bread lines, soup kitchens, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. “We want to help bridge people in need into something that is more sustainable, creating connections and supports on campus and in the community,” said Tuttle. Pointing students toward community resources does exactly that.
“Sometimes there are barriers because organizations can become siloed and they don’t know what is going on in the community. But, as a community college, that is a part of what we do—we connect students to the community.”
In 2019, approximately 2,500 individuals took advantage of the services offered by Wizard’s Warehouse. These were not only students but community members who experienced a temporary time of need.
Tuttle credits the success of Wizard’s Warehouse to the many TMCC faculty, students—including several Nevada Promise scholars—and other staff who work in the pantry or who have donated their time, food items, or hygiene products. Additionally, the Stitch for a Cause initiative—that encourages students and staff to knit or crochet warm clothing items— has provided much-needed scarves, gloves, hats and even blankets in the colder seasons.
For more information about Wizard’s Warehouse, contact the TMCC Student Resources Team or visit the Counseling Center, located in RDMT 325.