Panola College did a student survey last year and found some unexpected results: 45 percent of students were cutting meal sizes or skipping meals because they didn’t have enough money.

Twenty-nine percent of students were hungry but didn’t eat or have enough food to eat, Residence Life Coordinator Katy Chance said. Those results spurred the school to open up a food pantry on campus.

“We just feel it’s very important for us to provide every opportunity for our students to be successful,” Chance said. “You can’t focus on school if you’re hungry or you’re concerned about how you’re going to wash your clothes.”

The new pantry is located in Chance’s office at the Charles C. Matthews Foundation Student Center and provides food, toiletries and household essentials. Chance says it’s meant to be a hand-up to students who need a little help getting their basic needs met. Students can gain access to the pantry with their IDs.

Jessica Pace, with the college’s Office of Institutional Advancement, says they’ve already gotten a lot of support from faculty and staff. A friendly competition among employees helped stock the pantry before it opened.

“It’s really hard to be successful when you’re trying to just get your basic needs,” Pace said. “When we find out something like that, we have a great community here in Carthage and in Panola County. They all step in and want to help. So it’s really amazing.

The pantry also accepts donations from the community. The college’s website at panola.edu/feedtheneed lists the top 10 most-needed items, as well as a link to an Amazon wishlist. Physical donations can be made at Chance’s office from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Financial donations can be made to Pace’s office.

“I think that sadly you don’t know the numbers are high, that we have so much of need because we’re proud people and we don’t want to ask for help,” Pace said. “I think having this opportunity that they can come in and get the help that they need without having to really broadcast it is nice.”

Reporter

Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.