News

Fueling student success, one snack at a time
Author: Cristina Rojas, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Posted: May 31, 2019

Every weekday, a grab-and-go table of snacks is parked outside the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Dean's Office in Cramer Hall. Students can grab granola bars, applesauce, fresh fruit, instant oatmeal or a cup of soup between classes. For some, the snacks quiet a rumbling stomach as they head to their next class. For others, it might be their only food for the day.

 What started as an effort to help students who rely on food stamp benefits and other government assistance programs get through the partial federal shutdown has lasted longer than anyone could have imagined. 
 

Angela Canton and Consuelo Nerio, two staff members in the Dean's Office, approached Carol Gabrielli, the college's director of student success, with the idea. With $300 from the Dean's Fund for Excellence, they bought the first boxes of granola bars and bags of apples — but never expected the effort to go beyond a few days or a week. Months later, it's still going strong, thanks to the dozens of faculty, staff, students and community members who have hosted the table, dropped off snacks and donated money.

Canton and Gabrielli make regular grocery runs. The two try to stretch the dollars with sales and coupons as much as possible while also accommodating students' various dietary needs.

"We make an attempt to have things that are healthy and will get them to class with some sustenance that they otherwise wouldn't have had," Gabrielli said.

The table has become a sought-after resource for students, many of whom experience food insecurity. Since opening Feb. 4, the Student Snack Station, as it has been named, has served more than 6,200 visitors. The Student Snack Station also has pamphlets directing students to PSU's food pantry and Free Food Market and other resources for housing, financial assistance, childcare and healthcare on and off campus.

During any given hour between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., dozens of students stop by. On a card, they've scribbled words of gratitude to the anonymous donors who have sustained the table.

WAYS TO SUPPORT

-Contribute pre-packaged nutritious snacks

-Donate money

-Volunteer to host the table

-Donate Chinook Book grocery coupons

-Eat in or take out at Chipotle's Broadway location June 10 from 4 to 8 p.m.

Questions? Ideas? Reach out to Carol Gabrielli at cg@pdx.edu or 503-725-5902

Ried Gustafson, a graduate student who lives in his van, said the Student Snack Station has got him through days when he otherwise would have been forced to skip meals. It's difficult to preserve food in the van, so he often had to make a choice between buying food on campus, which can add up quickly, or not eating at all. 

"The Snack Station has saved me a whole lot of money that I don't necessarily have," he said. "I really appreciate it and I know it's been the same for a lot of other students."

Gustafson spends most of his days reading dense texts and realized that when he's hungry, he tires more easily.

"It's very hard for me to focus when I'm tired," he said. "But when I have a sugary or nourishing snack, it gives me almost instant energy to continue reading. For students, being full and nourished is a necessity to even attempt to get through reading and studying."

Gabrielli said that the Student Snack Station alone won't eliminate hunger and food insecurity on campus, but it's a significant ongoing gesture that she hopes inspires others and shows students that people care about their well-being.

"I hope the snack station prompts people to think, 'How can I, in my own sphere of influence, express to students that we care for them?'" she said. "How can we express that we see them? How can we express that we have at least a little bit of understanding of some of the pressures that they experience in addition to being a student here? I think that really matters to students that they're seen as human beings who are complex and who, in many cases, are using every resource they have to be here."

 Gabrielli said the Student Snack Station will continue for as long as supplies last. The Dean's Office's efforts got a boost from a Freshman Inquiry class during spring term — and it's a partnership that is expected to continue with another class next year. Veronica Hotton, a University Studies instructor who teaches Power and Imagination, decided to incorporate the Student Snack Station's efforts into her class after volunteering to host the table one day.
 

"The class' theme looks at different kinds of oppression and social justice issues, so food insecurity and students having access to food ties into the theme," she said. "It was a good match to take this on as our community-based learning project."

The class of 25 freshmen began regularly hosting the table, helped spread the word on social media and brainstormed ideas for fundraising. Asking for donations has pushed them outside their comfort zones and given them the confidence that they have the ability to make things better for their community, Hotton said.

Mari Anderson, one of Hotton's students who helped secure a Chipotle fundraiser, said the Student Snack Station helps students who struggle with food insecurity but can also be a pick-me-up for students who have little time in between classes to grab something to eat.

"When I'm hungry, I know that it's pretty much the only thing I can focus on, so when all these students are hungry throughout the day, that can cause a major lack of focus and make them struggle way more than they already are," she said. "I just hope that this snack station can help combat that, even if it's just one person on one day."

Photo caption: At top, granola bars, fresh fruit, oatmeal and other snacks await students outside Cramer Hall 341. At bottom, a card filled with words of gratitude from students.