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North Bay College Gives Out Food To Students Barely Scraping By

KENTFIELD (KPIX 5) -- A Bay Area college campus is helping students put food on the table.

Kyle Pflugradt, a communication major at College of Marin said, "You need to be eating food, keep a healthy brain."

The student is picking up bread, eggs, even fresh fruits and vegetables. And it's free.

The assumption might be that no student in affluent Marin County goes hungry. But at the College of Marin they discovered otherwise when the problem walked in the front door.

Sadika Sulaiman Hara, the director of College of Marin's Student Activities and Advocacy said, "Students would come in and say 'I'm not doing so well. I am hungry. Do you have money? Do you have food?' And the answer often times was 'no'."

So in January, with money from the health services department, the school opened a small food cupboard, stocking non-perishable staples such as soup and canned tuna. And yes, ramen noodles. Students can pick those staples up once a day.

Once a week they're allowed to take a bag full of groceries home to their family.

About 100 students a week use the cupboard, like full-time student and single mom, Taria Cordova.

"It is one of those prideful things that most of us don't want to admit to," Cordova said.

But the truth is, students, some who administrators say actually live out of their cars, are struggling.

Hara said, "They don't know where their next meal is coming from."

In addition to the cupboard, the college recently partnered with the local non-profit ExtraFood to create a pop-up pantry right on campus. ExtraFood recovers excess food from stores, restaurants and other organizations and delivers it to other non-profits.

"It surprises a lot of people," said ExtraFood Executive Director Marv Zauderer. "You know, after you pay for tuition and housing and books are so expensive these days, food for many college students is something they can regard, unfortunately, as discretionary."

ExtraFood has volunteers that pick up the fresh bread and produce.

For nursing student Nikki St. Clair, it's a blessing. "By the grace of God, I manage and I am on a strict budget. So, I've managed to make ends meet," she said. "It's not easy. But I do it."

Not easy because St. Clair has to feed herself and her high school daughter.

Like most students here, Pflugradt's trying to focus on getting a degree in order to get ahead.

Now, he's also having to rise to the challenge of stretching every dollar.

"Well, my budget is very small," Pflugradt said. "So, the majority of my money goes towards food and residence."

Right now, ExtraFood brings produce and bread to campus twice a week. School administrators say they are trying to expand that pop-up pantry by partnering with the local food bank.

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