Vista member strives to end food insecurity
Victoria Bresnahan – News Editor
Some students suffer from fod insecurity. Aleyra Lamarche, a Campus Compact for Southern New England AmeriCorps vista member, who works to improve the college experience for students suffering from food insecurity, said so herself.
“So, it’s me trying to educate the campus that there are these students that exist on campus,” said Lamarche, 22-years-old and recent alumna of Holy Cross, “But, also this culture of you know living off of cheap food is not okay, and it means that there is a deeper issue there.”
Vista members, specifically, manage poverty issues in higher education and create programs at their institutions that will have longevity, she said. To help with this issue, Lamarche said she is brainstorming different ideas and programs to create better resources and bring awareness to students.
Although she can research what other universities do to manage this issue, Lamarche said she is trying to find a solution solely for the university considering how many students commute.
“A lot of the times those programs don’t work here,” she said. “And, it’s me trying to imagine what works here, what are the problems here.”
One of her goals was to help organizations like the Mobile Food Pantry to better connect to the university. Now, there are about 14 to 16 students using the resource.
The Mobile Food Pantry’s volunteers, who Lamarche said are ‘very supportive of each other’ and the students who use the resource, come to campus for two hours each month.
“It is just a pick- me-up almost,” she said. “Even though it’s a service that, at the end of the day it is kind of sad that these students need these resources, it is also great to see that these interactions aren’t negative.”
A 2016 Wellness Center student health survey found 30 percent of Southern students may suffer from some form of food insecurity, according to Lamarche. A 2018 Wisconsin Hope Lab survey, which analyzes research concerning low-income students to create policies to help them succeed in their education, stated 36 percent of university students and 42 percent of community college students of the more than 40,000 survey were hungry in the past 30 days.
Lamarche said, in the long term, the university would like to have a group or individual help students with as many basic needs as possible such as food, clothing and textbooks. If students do not receive this help, she said this could lead to students being unable to focus on their education.
“If you can’t get your basic needs met,” she said, “then your life as a student it doesn’t get better.”
Ultimately, Lamarche said she wants to be a student affairs professional and continue to work with struggling college students. Low income, first- generation, and minority students are some of the people she hopes to someday help.
“I tend to do this where I just pick things kind of, it’s like a pattern,” she said, “and I end up kind of working with the same group of people and then kind of in the same settings—in college or transitioning from high school to college. So, I just feel like I’m just going along for the ride, but somehow it all ties in together.”
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana