Food Pantries available for Cecil College students

Published on December 15, 2023

Photograph of three food pantries on the North East Campus.

NORTH EAST, Md: Cecil College has enhanced its proactive approach to tackling food insecurity for students by partnering with the Maryland Food Bank and the Cecil College Foundation to expand services.

According to the Maryland Food Bank database, 11.4 percent of Cecil County residents are at or below the federal poverty level, with more than 11 percent of the population facing food insecurity. That means 11,370 individuals may not know when their next meal will be, according to the data.

“We work hard at Cecil College to remove barriers for students so they can focus on their academics. The Student Life team has done an excellent job expanding the Campus Food Pantry Program. They understand we serve the whole person. If a student is hungry, they’re not going to perform well in class, and our ultimate goal is student success,” said Vice President of Student Service Dr. Kimberly Joyce.

For more than a decade, Cecil College has maintained food pantries in several locations on the North East and Elkton Station campuses. These “Grab-n-Go” stations provide students quick meal options such as microwavable mac-n-cheese, ravioli, stew, oatmeal, and soups. There are also items such as cereal bars, fruit cups, and other snacks.

To reach more of the student population, Cecil College expanded the locations of the food pantries this fall to each building. To accompany food items, the Student Life Office provides plastic utensils, napkins, paper plates, and bowls. Donations to the food pantries are also made by faculty and staff members.

The food pantries are maintained by the Student Life Office and also include personal hygiene products.

“The feedback from our students let us know there was a need for the hygiene products, especially the feminine hygiene products because they are so expensive,” said Director of Student Life Cheryl Davis-Robinson. “We have received multiple letters of appreciation from students for providing feminine hygiene products in the restrooms on the North East and Elkton Station campuses.

In addition to the quick Grab-n-Go items, the partnership with the Maryland Food Bank led to the launch of “Groceries-n-Go” programs this fall that provide a complete meal for the student and their family.

The “Groceries-n-Go” program serves 40 – 50 students weekly. Bags of groceries are stocked with soup broth, produce, flour, potatoes, cereal, rice, and spaghetti. There are also fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and frozen chicken.

“It has been helpful for our students who have families. They have groceries to take home that ensures their kids are able to eat over the weekend and during college breaks,” said Dr. Joyce.

In conjunction with these two programs, Cecil College has partnered with Maryland Department of Human Services to train six employees as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) coaches. These volunteers assist students in navigating the application process when applying for food stamps.

When the College is out of session, many of its students still face food insecurity. To assist them, the Student Life Office has established the Cecil Care Cards program, funded through donations to the Cecil College Foundation. These Cecil Care Cards are gift cards to Walmart, where students can purchase food items when classes are not in session.

Cecil College’s faculty and staff are aware of the community’s needs, and many volunteer to help address food insecurity. Professor of Art Lauren Vanni has been a catalyst for the Empty Bowls fundraising campaign for many years, which provides 60,000 meals annually in Newark, Delaware, for senior citizens and that program carries over into Cecil County.

“Our goal is to have no one go without a meal of some sort. Anyone who wants a snack can grab it from one of the stations without asking or make themselves a bowl of soup. We are here for them,” said Davis-Robinson.