Food For Thought Helps Disadvantaged Students

Adriana Orellana

With the increasing price of textbooks, the cost of classes, school supplies, and other necessities, many students end up with hardly enough money for food and other basic necessities. The Food for Thought program at GCC offers aid to students who are in financial need.

Food for Thought was started in 1995 by members Jeanette Stirdivant, academic counselor of Student Services Division; Joy Cook, associate dean of DSPS; and Valerie Rhaney, counselor at the Center for Students with Disabilites, as well as other faculty and staff members. They had noticed that many students were sacrificing food for books and school materials.

“When we started this program, textbooks were expensive, and throughout the years, textbook prices have increased tremendously,” said Stirdivant. “We want to help out students even more with this program so they can buy other things that they need but normally don’t, because they choose to buy the textbooks for school.”

The Food for Thought program gives between 10 and 15 awards annually to those students who apply and are selected by the Food for Thought committee, which includes participating faculty and staff, the financial aid director, and participants and donors. On average, 150 to 200 applications are received annually. The awards of $1,000 are distributed throughout a 10-month period, during which recipients obtain $100 awards in gift certificates and local market gift cards.

The applications are chosen by the committee according to the financial need and personal statement of the applicant.
Money for the program is collected through voluntary payroll deductions of faculty, staff and members who participate, organizations in Glendale that donate money to the program, ASGCC donations, and gift card contributions from Ralph’s supermarket.

Throughout the years Food for Thought has helped out homeless students, single mothers and single fathers, and families where both young parents may be attending school but only one might be working to support the family.

Students who have previously won a Food for Thought award have sent back thank you letters to the members who helped them out, describing their accomplishments in school and how receiving the award helped them when they needed it the most.

Stirdivant recalled a letter sent to her by an award recipient which said, “I was able to take my child to the grocery store, and it was a simple yet rewarding experience to be able to buy things that we normally couldn’t afford. Or buy fruits that we usually wouldn’t be able to get.”
Other students who have benefitted from the Food for Thought program went on to transfer to the USC Physician Assistant program, complete the Registered Nursing program at GCC, transfer to CSUN, CSULA, and UC Berkeley, and complete the ESL program.

For many students, it is financially difficult to buy the books they need in order to pass the classes necessary to obtain their degree. Ironically, they are attempting to obtain a degree in order to get a better job and to be able to afford food and other necessities. These students would rather buy their books than food. It is because of this cycle that Food for Thought hopes to lend students a helping hand.

Forms are sent to faculty and staff members who may wish to participate in payroll deductions towards the Food for Thought program.

Students who want to apply must be enrolled in a minimum of six units of academic or vocational course work as listed on their current Student Educational Plan (SEP), have successfully completed at least 12 units at GCC, maintained a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, met residency requirements of the State of California and be eligible for the Board of Governors Enrollment Fee Waiver, and have a complete financial aid file as required by the Financial Aid Office.

Once the requirements have been met, students must fill out an annual Food for Thought Program form, and submit it along with a copy of their current SEP signed by a counselor within the past six months.

They must also submit a copy of their most recent federal income tax return and, if a dependent student (as determined by the Financial Aid office), a copy of their parents’ most recent federal tax return.
Application forms are available at the EOPS office, the Financial Aid office, Center for Students with Disabilities, International Students Center, the Scholarship office, or any counseling office. Applications and additional required forms must be turned in at the Center for Students with Disabilities, located on the second floor of the San Rafael building. The deadline to apply for both the Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 semesters is Oct. 22 at noon. Late applications will not be considered and there will be no additional application period for this academic year.