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Stories from the Road: Washington County Community College

Juggling the constant demands of college life can be tough and not knowing where your next meal is coming from adds another layer of worry. Food insecurity can harm college students’ ability to achieve their educational and professional goals, especially for students who face challenges like financial independence, part-time enrollment, full-time work, caretaking responsibilities, or not having a traditional high school diploma.

Today’s college students are breaking traditional molds, entering school at an average age of 21 and continuing their education until an average age of 26. Many are even balancing coursework with the demands of parenthood. With a growing number of students experiencing low household incomes and the soaring costs of education, making ends meet has become a real struggle for many adults pursuing their academic and professional dreams.

The Food Bank partners with 12 college campuses across the state of Maine to provide consistent access to nutritious food for students and their families. One of Good Shepherd Food Bank network partners is Washington County Community College (WCCC) in Calais, Maine. Located on campus, The Caring Cupboard, their student pantry, ensures consistent access to nutritious food for students and their families. The pantry goes beyond the traditional pantry model by offering fresh produce, and essential health and hygiene products. Shelves are filled with rows of pasta, sides, canned tuna and chicken, seasonings, fruit and vegetables, rice and the classic college staple, Ramen noodles. A refrigerator and attached freezer are filled with cheese, butter, eggs, and seasonal produce. Another section focuses on personal items, including soap and shampoo. This complete approach recognizes that a nutritious diet and personal care are integral components of well-being.

The Caring Cupboard is more than just a place to pick up food; it serves as a community space where students and families feel welcomed, a place where students can share their challenges and receive helpful resources for other aspects of their lives.

Behind the operations at The Caring Cupboard is Bernadette Farrar, WCCC’s Student Navigator. Bernadette is very passionate about food, and she states, “If I have anything to do with it, no student will go hungry here. Feeding people is a passion of mine.” There is also a group of dedicated student assistants who ensure smooth functioning of the pantry. On our visit we met with Daisy, Cadence, and Angela, their role extends beyond simply restocking shelves and organizing items. They make sure students know that the pantry is open and available to anyone who needs food. And listen to what students want and need.

“Once I got enrolled in my degree program and moved out of my parents’ home in 2019, it hit me that I would need help if I wanted to continue my college education,” a student shared. “Because of the assistance I received from the pantry, I am able to comfortably continue to focus on school more than I have to worry about some financial struggles.”

As The Caring Cupboard continues to grow and evolve, the pantry is making a tangible difference in the lives of students at Washington County Community College.

With our partner agencies spread throughout the entire state, there will likely be help nearby if you need food. If you’re looking for help or interested in donating food or volunteering at your local food pantry, please visit our Food Map to find a pantry near you.

Good Shepherd Food Bank works in partnership with nearly 600 hunger-relief organizations, located from Kittery to Fort Kent, to help distribute food to community members in need. Our network of partner agencies includes food pantries, meal sites, senior centers, school programs, and healthcare facilities.