Valencia College’s food bank, Pooky’s Pantry, has partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to help stock the shelves to support students in need.
For 10 years, Pooky’s Pantry has been managed and operated by Valencia’s Student Development team, allowing students to help their fellow students. Donations came primarily from the college’s students, faculty and staff.
The new partnership with Second Harvest will provide more options to students and greater flexibility. Student Development staffers can now go online and see what Second Harvest has available in its warehouse and order what’s needed for the campus pantries at any time, at no cost to the college.
Now Valencia College students may take up to 20 items from the pantry each day. Prior to the Second Harvest partnership, students were limited to five items per day.
The partnership with Second Harvest grew out of a plan to better serve students, spearheaded by Charles Ensminger, director of Student Development for Valencia’s East region.
“A person’s need does not happen in a silo,” said Ensminger. “If you need housing, there is a good chance you need food, and if you need food and lodging and are a parent, odds are you need childcare.”
Considering this, Ensminger developed a new pilot version of the pantry that offered additional support and connected students to resources in five areas — food insecurity, housing insecurity, mental health support, transportation assistance and childcare.
As part of that restructuring, the new partnership with Second Harvest enables Pooky’s Pantry to provide more than just canned goods, microwave popcorn and shelf-stable foods.
Now they can offer students everything from food to hygiene items — and with the buying power of Second Harvest. The team behind Pooky’s has also adopted a new attitude about the food they’re providing.
“While we want to provide students options that they like, that is not our primary motivator; it’s nutrition,” Ensminger said. Mindful that many people impacted by food insecurity often suffer from obesity, the team now works to ensure students access to high-quality food options.
“It’s the difference between offering students pop-tarts and ramen noodles versus tuna and rice,” he said. “We want students who visit the pantry to receive ‘brain fuel’ in their journey to achieve their academic goals, not high-sugar snacks that will leave them feeling tired in the middle of their class.”
While all campuses have a Pooky’s Pantry, East Campus is the only pantry that has a refrigerator, enabling the East Campus pantry to offer perishable food and vegetables. There are plans to add refrigerators at other campus pantries, however.
Meanwhile, the Student Development team is trying to spread the word about Pooky’s Pantry by hosting “pop-up” pantries at student events and programs. In addition, the team is developing a “cooking with the pantry” video series, with cooking demonstrations produced by students for students.
If you would like to donate to Pooky’s Pantry, there are three ways to donate:
– Visit the Valencia College Foundation donations page and select “Pooky’s Pantry Fund” from the Designation dropdown menu.
– Donate funds directly by visiting our business office and telling them you want to donate to Pooky’s Pantry.
– Write a check made out to Valencia College Student Development with Pooky’s Pantry in the memo line and mail to:
Valencia College Student Development
701 N Econlockhatchee Trail
EC, 5-212E, MC: 3-8
Orlando, FL 32825
– You can still donate food and other items at the campus Pooky’s Pantry locations, Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. All Pooky’s Pantry locations are located in Student Development offices, except for East Campus, located in Building 4, Room 134. Pooky’s workers follow strict safety guidelines outlined by the Florida Department of Health, so all donations must be unused/unopened and not expired.
If you have any questions, please contact Dayane Villatoro-Vazquez, Student Development program specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-582-2536.