- Associated Press - Monday, April 11, 2016

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) - Florence-Darlington Technical College recently opened a food pantry for students.

Clay Williams, director of public relations for the college, said the college wants to ensure that any of its students who need help are getting it.

“We have an Office of Institutional Research that does studies about the college and the community,” Williams said. “This is one of the things that we found out by doing this research: Sometimes up to 70 percent of our students are considered low-income. Of that 70 percent, some of those students might have food insecurities. Now, an empty room is being utilized as a food pantry and if a student needs help, all they need to do is apply; all of it is confidential.”

Williams said the pantry was a group effort among the departments at the college.

“Leroy D. Gibson Jr., the director of student life, began talking to our executive staff, Vice President of Academic Affairs Suresh Tiwari and Dr. Ben Dillard, our president, about doing something for needy students,” Williams said. “He came up with the idea to start a food bank and in January and February, Leroy and his staff conducted a food drive on campus.”

Thousands of nonperishable items and canned goods were collected by the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, the campus bookstore, the admissions office and the K-12 program.

Gibson was also able to get a refrigerator donated so that some perishable items could be collected and given away as well.

Though some of the population data was coming to the college through research, some of it was coming from students themselves making their need all the more personal to the college.

“Of all of the staff, Leroy is the one working the closest with students,” Williams said. “He has had students come up to him and ask for food or ask for water. That is what really made him realize that we needed this pantry. We want to take care of our own.”

Food drives will be held every spring and fall. Wal-Mart, Merita Bread and other local food banks helped get the pantry started and will help with stocking the pantry in the future.

Williams said churches have also become involved.

“The Varsity Young Adult group at Family Worship Center came and dropped off stuff that they had collected,” Williams said. “They donated hundreds of items.”

Students who qualify for other types of assistance will also be put in contact with the proper agencies. Williams said that while the pantry is only open to students at the college, they will receive enough food to help their whole family if necessary, not just themselves.

The community can make donations to the food pantry by dropping off canned goods or nonperishable food items at the Student Life Department.


Information from: Morning News, https://www.scnow.com

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