A Place at the Table

Addressing Food Insecurity at Coker College and in the Community

41.2 million American people live in food insecure households. Food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members, and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecurity affects individuals across the United States, including here in Hartsville, South Carolina, and on Coker College’s campus.

“It has been said a child cannot learn if their basic necessities are not met,” says Andrea Pulling, Director of Carolina Kids, a non-profit that provides basic necessities to children in Darlington County, including clothing, food and school supplies. Andrea’s statement is applicable, no matter the age of the student.

When you think about the typical college experience, you don’t think about students not having enough to eat. On college campuses all across the United States, for some students, food insecurity is a very real issue. “We’ve seen in the past that our students struggle with some things, [food insecurity] being one of them,” says Tymon Graham, director of residence life at Coker.

In November, Coker College’s Residence Life team opened the Cobra Cupboard, an on-campus food pantry available to all enrolled students who experience food and care product insecurities, providing them with supplemental food and basic necessities.

“If we can help to support them from the food aspect...then we have the opportunity to help that student in a different way that alleviates some of that stress of where their next meal is going to come from, especially outside of dining hours,” says Graham. “They can focus more on their academics and their education. One less thing for them to worry about.”

Students can apply to the program via an online application and, if approved, are allowed to visit twice a month, including during the summer. They’ll be eligible for the entire academic year and will need to renew each year. Students do not need to live on Coker’s campus to be eligible for the Cobra Cupboard.

In the Hartsville community, Andrea Pulling and Carolina Kids provide food bags to over 800 elementary school children in Darlington County every weekend. The program continues to grow each year as more needs are identified. Last year, Coker’s Enactus team started their "Kids Can" project, which partnered with Carolina's Kids to enhance funding and nutritional values of the organization's weekend food bag initiative for local children.

This year, Kids Can has partnered with Hartsville High School to help start a food pantry at the high school. Kids Can is working with Mr. James Ford, the assistant principal at Hartsville High School, in an effort to feed 50-75 HHS students every weekend.

“We had been thinking about [a food pantry],” says Ford. “They were doing it at the elementary level. We wanted to do it at the high school.”

The ultimate goal of Kids Can and their partnership with Carolina Kids and Hartsville High School is to help replace some of the traditional non-perishable donated food items with healthier options. Kids Can is avidly trying to find a company to partner with that can offer a sustainable alternative and help all involved to eliminate food waste (i.e., a partnership in which a company would donate their damaged or excess food to Carolina Kids and HHS).

“We’re trying to be healthy, but we also want to give them what they want,” says Gabriel Mens, director of Coker College Enactus. “The ultimate goal is to make as big of an impact as possible.”

There are ten Coker College students involved in Enactus's Kids Can project––Bethany Prochnow (project leader), Brandon Mullins, Evan Bachman, Gary Baker, Jay Novoa-Miralles, Katie Jordan, Alexa (Lexi) Baughman, Luke Elliot, Seth Spell and Suzanna Mickey.

Enactus is an international organization that connects student, academic and business leaders through entrepreneurial-based projects that empower people to transform opportunities into real, sustainable progress for themselves and their communities. Guided by academic advisors and business experts, the student leaders of Enactus create and implement community empowerment projects around the globe. Coker's Enactus team was named one of the top 12 in the nation at the Enactus United States National Exposition held May 21-23, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Cobra Cupboard

The Cobra Cupboard depends on donations for operation and will only accept non-perishable food items. Monetary donations are welcome and can be given online via Coker’s Office of Advancement (please select “Cobra Cupboard” from the designation drop down menu). Donors can also give Walmart gift cards, which will allow staff to replenish the food pantry with necessary items.

Items Needed at The Cobra Cupboard

Donations can be dropped off at Coker’s Residence Life office, which is located upstairs in the Susanne G. Linville Dining Hall.

Protein - Cans of Tuna*, Cans of Chicken*, Canned Stew, Pork and Beans, Soups, Spaghetti Sauce*, Peanut Butter*

Canned Vegetables - Beans, Carrots, Peas, Tomatoes, Corn

Fruits - Canned Fruits, Fruit Cups, Dried Fruits, Jelly, Raisins, Juice Boxes

Starches - Instant Potatoes, Rice*, Pasta*, Macaroni and Cheese*, Crackers, Cans of Ravioli/SpaghettiO’s*, Hamburger Helper, Boxed Meals*

Breakfast - Boxes of Cereal*, Instant Oatmeal (individual packets) *, Cereal Bars, Pancake Mix, Syrup, Pop Tarts, Muffin Mix

On the Go/Snacks - Tortilla Chips, Salsa, Pringles, Cookies, Granola Bars*, Microwave Popcorn, Easy Mac*, Microwaveable Non-Frozen Meals*

Basic Necessities - Soap, Toilet Paper, Shampoo, Conditioner, Toothpaste, Lotion, Deodorant, Feminine Hygiene, Laundry Detergent, Dryer Sheets

*Indicates high demand items

Enactus's Kids Can Project

Kid’s Can is a local project partnering with Carolina Kids® impacting the students in the Hartsville community. Our goal is to provide food for students who do not have access to it outside of their school on the weekends.

There are donation boxes currently in five locations around Hartsville:

  • Coker College Library
  • YMCA
  • City Hall
  • St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church
  • West Hartsville Baptist Church

Kids Can also accepts monetary donations. Checks can be made out to Coker Enactus and Kids Can should be noted in the memo section.

Items Needed for Kids Can and the Hartsville High School Food Pantry

Foods Desired:

  • Canned/Dry Beans
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Chef Boyardee
  • Canned Soups
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Dried Fruits
  • Pretzels
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Protein/Granola Bars
  • Crackers
  • Low-Sugar Cereals (Cheerios, etc.)
  • Oatmeal/Grits
  • Fruit Cups
  • Applesauce
  • Meal Supplements (Ensure, etc.)
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Canned Meat
  • Trail Mix
  • Nuts
  • Veggie Straws
  • Water
  • Gatorade

Foods NOT Desired:

  • Fresh Produce
  • Dairy Products
  • Deli Meat
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Frozen Meals
  • Candy/Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Soda
  • Juice Boxes
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Pastries (Little Debbies, etc.)



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