CALAIS, ME – Bernadette Farrar is passionate about food: growing it, cooking it, and especially sharing it. She is even more passionate about fighting hunger.
Farrar manages The Caring Cupboard, a food pantry on the Washington County Community College campus at Calais, in her role as WCCC’s Student Navigator.
“If I have anything to do with it, no student will go hungry here,” Farrar said this week. “For some college students, it comes down to feeding themselves or their family, or staying in school.’’
A recent nationwide study found that 36 percent of college students experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days, The Still Hungry and Homeless in College report states college students are cutting the size of their portions or skipping meals due to lack of funds. Feeding America, a national food bank network, estimates that 16.3 percent of Washington County people are food insecure and that 79 percent of those people fall below poverty program levels.
Farrar said WCCC is committed to fighting those statistics.
Donna Mutty of Whiting, who hopes to graduate next May, is one of those students who needs the help Farrar provides.
“I was laid off from work in 2019 when my job was outsourced to another country,” Mutty said, adding that as a full-time student who also works part time, “Sometimes the budget gets tight and I struggle to make ends meet.” She said the Caring Cupboard has been an invaluable resource. “I can get staples like rice and beans, fresh fruit and produce when it’s available, eggs and milk, and canned goods as well as personal care products, dish detergent and laundry detergent, and more. The Cupboard helps stretch my food dollars.”
“Feeding people is a passion of mine,” Farrar said. WCCC’s Caring Cupboard last year passed out five to seven thousand food items, and Farrar expects the need and WCCC’s response will be even larger and more vital this year.
As part of the US Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Program, Farrar this week hand delivered food boxes provided by the Good Shepherd Food Bank and the Irene Chadbourne Ecumenical Food Pantry of Calais. Each was filled with milk, half and half, eggs, hot dogs, cheese, potatoes, cabbage, apples, onions and more.
“The need among college students is deep,” Farrar said. “It is very significant, and WCCC has had a long history of providing food.” Beefing up the Caring Cupboard became even more important once self-serve options at the school, such as The Sharing Shelf and the PB&J Corner, had to be closed due to COVID-19 regulations.
Not getting enough to eat can have a dramatic effect on academics. Hungry students often make lower grades, have lower test scores, and have a lower chance of graduating. Those experiencing hunger are less likely to attend and perform well in class and are more likely to withdraw from courses.
Farrar said at least a quarter of WCCC students use the Cupboard, which is located in Riverview Hall. Shelves are filled with neat rows of pasta, sides, canned tuna and chicken, seasonings, fruit and vegetables, rice and the college staple, Ramen noodles. A refrigerator/freezer is filled with cheese, butter, eggs, apples and plums. Another section focuses on personal items, including soap and shampoo.
Farrar said the food pantry on campus has become almost a lifeline for some students. It has been assisted by grants through Hannaford and Machias Savings Bank, and has spurred cooking classes, offered by Healthy Acadia, and food drives by both faculty and students.
“Donations are always welcomed,” Farrar added. For more information regarding donations, contact Bernadette Farrar, WCCC’S Student Navigator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.