Community partnership and student volunteers nourish campus food bank

Campus food bank coordinator Jordan Billiot ‘17

Housed in the Center for Community-Based Learning and Action (CCBLA) and supported by the Thurston County Food Bank, Evergreen’s campus food bank serves over two dozen households each week and was visited by students more than 900 times throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

Jordan Billiot ‘17 is entering her third year of managing the campus food bank, a responsibility she first took on as a student. She serves as the campus food bank coordinator, an AmeriCorps VISTA position jointly supported by Evergreen and the county food bank.

“I do a lot of working with volunteers because we are volunteer-run,” Billiot explained. “We get a delivery every week, so that means we get fresh stuff every week, but we get a full order of nonperishable things as well every other week.”

Billiot works closely with Thurston County Food Bank Executive Director Robert Coit. The campus food bank is considered a satellite location of Thurston County Food Bank which provides all of the food distributed at the Evergreen location.

“We’ve had this partnership with the CCBLA for a number of years,” said Coit. “It leverages, in my view, community relationships that the food bank has, community donors that provide the food, and supports an environment where students can get more than a can of beans, more than a cup of soup.”

Established in the 2012-13 academic year, the campus food bank continues to grow and improve. Originally students were only able to receive prepackaged bags of food, but they are now invited to select specific items, as if shopping in a grocery store. Additionally, the acquisition of a refrigerator in 2015 (thanks to fundraising by a group known as the Campus Food Coalition) has allowed the food bank to supply students with perishable items.

The driving concern of the campus food bank is not specifically hunger, but rather food insecurity. That means no student is refused service. “It’s not about what you make or what your circumstances are,” said Coit. “It’s just about having enough resources to ensure your basic needs are met.”

Additional resources are available to students who are hungry on a longer-term basis, such as Washington State’s Basic Food program. “We hold a contract (with the state) so we can actually help sign people up for basic food benefits (at the campus food bank),” said Coit.

Evergreen students support the work of the campus food bank in a variety of ways. Many donate unused meal credits from their dining plans or volunteer at the food bank. A new student group called Students for Food Security was recently formed to help support the food bank.

To meet the needs of students who may need food support on a short notice, Evergreen Police Services provide a food pantry that is open 24 hours a day. The Police Services food pantry is stocked by individual donations from Evergreen police officers, staff, and faculty, as well as donations from Evergreen Dining Services.

The campus food bank is open on Tuesdays from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and located in the CCBLA office (Seminar 2 E 2115).

Pictured right: Campus food bank coordinator Jordan Billiot ‘17