In 2020, three out of five US college students reported struggling to keep up with basic necessities, according to The Hope Center, citing a lack of money or resources.
Locally, Santa Monica College is working to reduce student hunger by offering a free wine cellar to all currently enrolled students. Saida Hernandez takes advantage of this market because she works three jobs to pay for school and help her parents with expenses.
He has been taking classes part-time since 2018, commuting two hours to and from the community college campus. She often relied on fast food because it was fast and cheap instead of getting healthy and nutritious meals.
“It was a struggle because I have a physical disability and it was difficult to lose weight,” Hernandez added.
According to Swipe Out Hunger, one in three college students in the US faces food insecurity. They say this threatens a student’s ability to focus, stay in school and feel a sense of community.
Santa Monica College itself reported that 50% of its students struggle to pay necessities. That’s why Sharlyne Massillon, project manager for Basic Needs, felt this weekly winery was necessary for success. She says that home life directly impacts getting to the next level.
“It’s become more of ‘I need to make money to support myself.’ If you’re already traveling far, not getting what you need on campus, you’re hungry. You can’t even focus on education. You are focusing on the basics,” she said.
To gain access to the on-campus warehouse, all you have to do is prove that you are a current student. The free grocery store is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but many students line up hours before it opens. Massillon hopes this modern, centralized space for meeting basic needs will remove the stigma of asking for help.
“You need healthy, nutritious food so your brain can function at its best, so you can retain the knowledge that you’re learning on campus and be the best you can be,” Massillon said.
Hernandez is on her way to being the best version of herself, because worrying about her and her family’s next meal is something she can cross off her list.
“I feel relieved,” she said. “I don’t have to always think of food as my top priority.”
Fresh, dry, frozen and hygiene products are donated by Sunrise Produce, Westside Food Bank, Venice Family Clinic, The Butter End Cakery, Everytable, SMC Foundation and Vicente Foods.