Food for Thought Feeds Needy Students

Agnes Constante

Students in extreme financial need may be eligible to participate in Food for Thought, a program designed to assist students in buying food while enrolled in school.

Awarded applicants receive $100 per month for 10 months, amounting to a total of $1,000 for the award period.

Counselors Jeanette Stirdivant and Valerie Rhaney created Food for Thought in 1997 after learning that certain students couldn’t decide whether to buy books for school or whether to buy food to fill their stomachs.

Rhaney is a counselor and associate professor and Stirdivant is the student services division Chair.

“We found that we had students having to make decisions on whether or not they were going to buy food or buy books. And that was just a killer for us,” Stirdivant said.

At the time Rhaney learned that some students were trying to make ends meet on $600 to $800 per month.

“I had heard about some students who were renting trailers. They had a special on these U-Hauls, $19.99 for the weekend. I heard rumors that students were so desperate that they would rent the U-Hauls for the weekend, stay in them, go to a gas station, wash up and whatnot,” she said. “Jeanette and I said, ‘This is crazy! A student shouldn’t have to choose between buying food for themselves and family and going to school.”

Another concern Stirdivant and Rhaney had was the possibility that students facing these choices might drop out of school.
“Some of the students really had high GPAs and we wanted them to continue. These are students who are good students. They just need a little hand up,” Rhaney said.

2002 recipient Lorena Cabrera* was one student who considered quitting school to work full time in order to support her children.

“I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the holidays being that my financial situation has worsened,” she said in a thank you letter. “But now with this help it has given me an incentive to keep trying to reach the goal that I have been dreaming of for years.”

An average of 15 students are awarded each year, though the number of awards varies based on available funds.

Food for Thought is funded through the Associated Students of Glendale Community College, voluntary payroll deductions from faculty and staff, individual donations from faculty and staff, and the Christian Rural Overseas Program Hunger Walk.

Mass communications instructor Michael Eberts also raises funds for the program once during the fall semester and once during the spring semester.

During the full semesters Eberts holds field trips for his classes. Among these trips include participation in TV tapings, where students are paid to be audience members.
All funds raised from these tapings are donated to Food for Thought.

“I can see where a community college student might be so desperately poor that they’d be unable to continue their studies, and that seems like a shame. And this program helps,” Eberts said. “I find it quite an idealistic sort of program.”

To be considered for the program students must: submit a complete application by noon on Oct. 23, have applied and qualified for the Pell Grant, meet State of California residency requirements, qualify for the Board of Governors enrollment fee waiver, have completed a minimum of 12 units, have a minimum 2.0 GPA, be enrolled in at least six units, and have a Student Educational Plan (which must also be submitted with the application).

Food vouchers can be redeemed at Ralphs and all of its affiliates and at Food 4 Less, and vouchers cannot be used to redeem alcohol and cigarettes.

Previous awardees have benefited tremendously from the program.

Thirty-year-old Latoya Kirkland who was awarded in 2008 is a full time student who receives the Pell Grant and vouchers from Glendale College’s Extended Opportunity Program and Services.

Kirkland looks after her severely disabled mother who is on 24-hour oxygen, She also is diabetic and has emphysema.

“I had to quit my job because my mom is so sick, so I don’t have a job right now,” she said.

Her mother requires a special diet so Kirkland was spending around $80 to $100 a month on food.

During her award period Kirkland was able to maintain food expenses.

“It helped a lot as far as getting a lot of fruits and vegetables because food prices nowadays are ridiculously expensive, and that helped so much,” she said.

Food for Thought is a one-time award but Kirkland is grateful to have been a recipient.

“If we didn’t have this program I wouldn’t know how I would get through, so I’m truly thankful,” she said.

2008 recipient Antonio Rodriguez* also benefited from Food for Thought.

“I really needed this program because I live by myself since my beloved mother passed away already and my father is in the nursing home because he had a stroke,” he said.

Rodriguez is unemployed. He receives Supplemental Security Income and financial aid from the college.

Associate Dean for the Center for Students with Disabilities Joy Cook, encouraged students to submit applications.

“There is only one application period a year. This is it. So if you feel like you’ve met the qualifications, and there aren’t many, please come in. Get an application and make sure that you submit a complete application,” she said.

Cook organizes the program annually by sending out applications and gathering the committee responsible for deliberating award recipients.

Rhaney thanked those who contributed to the program.

“The program would not have existed as long as its existed if it hadn’t been for the faculty on this campus. So I think the students need to know they have a wonderful body of people that work here,” she said.

Rhaney added that faculty members interested in making a payroll deduction for this program may do so by contacting Cook at ext. 5450, Stirdivant at ext. 5424, Rhaney at ext. 5905 or 5873, or the Foundation Office in the administration building.

Applications can be found at the Information Desk, EOPS office, Center for Disabled Students, and Financial Aid office. Late applications will not be processed.
*Names of students have been changed.