Evergreen Gets Federal Funds to Students; Starts Local Pop-Up Food Bank

Food Bank drive-up

Last week, The Evergreen State College distributed $1.1 million in federal funds to students. Eligible students automatically received between $500 to $750 to cover expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, basic needs and child care.

These funds came from the $2-trillion, federally funded Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The aid went to approximately 1,675 graduate and undergraduate students at the college, and distributions will continue as more students are determined eligible.

"We know that the economic impacts of the virus are affecting all of our students in a variety of ways," said Eric Pedersen, chief enrollment officer at Evergreen.

"With the goal of getting money to students as swiftly as possible, we made grants to every student with a FAFSA (the federal student aid application) on file. We are working with the few students who don’t have a FAFSA to help them become eligible,” said Pedersen.

“Honoring our commitment to access and diversity, we've also extended the college’s own funds to eligible international and undocumented students not included in the CARES Act legislation," he noted. These resources come from generous donors who support the college and its students.

The aid makes a difference.

“I’m at a critical point in my educational path right now where I need to be building my portfolio for graduate school, which relies on having access to some costly equipment,” said Alithea O’Dell, a senior at Evergreen.

“With access to studio spaces in limbo, I was worried about creating work that meets my expectations and shows what I’m capable of creating. I was able to use the CARES funding to purchase an etching press and other miscellaneous supplies, which means I will be set up to print independently, no matter what changes may come,” said O’Dell. “It felt great to invest in my creative and academic future in such a significant way.”

About 52% of Evergreen students are low-income. Before the college shifted to a remote teaching and learning environment, in-person support services were offered on campus to meet the needs of students, including a food bank.

On May 5, the Thurston County Food Bank opened a community point of distribution on Evergreen’s campus in Olympia, and served over 90 individuals and households. The drive-up satellite food distribution is located in parking lot C and will run every other Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through July 28.

“Our aim is to support all our community members through this pandemic, recognizing that tribal nations, communities of color, people with disabilities, those without shelter, or experiencing job or food insecurity have been hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19 and resultant economic hardship,” said Therese Saliba, interim vice president for inclusive excellence. 

“Seeing our community come together amid a pandemic and not reduce aid, but change it drastically to make it safe and still available has been wonderful,” said Zoë Lovato, Evergreen student and campus food bank coordinator. 

Through an Evergreen academic program called Student Originated Studies: Taking Action in Our Community, Lovato became an intern for the Thurston County Food Bank. She and other students have helped open this site along with college staff.

“In many cases, we had to close satellite food banks to comply with the stay-home order, which is why we have been so eager to get a pop-up on campus,” she said. “Being a college student today is hard enough and nobody should have to sacrifice eating properly to get an education. I am thankful to Thurston County Food Bank and The Evergreen State College for collaborating on this important effort.”

The food bank distribution point is run by the Thurston County Food Bank and Thurston County Emergency Management in collaboration with The Evergreen State College, and is available to all Thurston County community members, including Evergreen students.

Evergreen’s Geoduck Student Union has plans to deliver food to students who are not able to participate in the drive-through distribution days.

Drive-through food bank services at Evergreen will be held on:
Tuesday, May 19
Tuesday, June 2
Tuesday, June 16
Tuesday, June 30
Tuesday, July 14
Tuesday, July 28

The Evergreen State College is located at 2700 Evergreen Pkwy NW, Olympia, WA 98505.

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